Regaining Creative Confidence

We hear it all the time. “Thank God you guys are here, because I haven’t got a creative bone in my body.” As much as we love to feel needed, we beg to differ. That tendency to divide people into two groups – “creatives” and “everyone else” – has always been a dubious and not-very-helpful distinction.

In their acclaimed book, “Creative Confidence,” David Kelley, founder of international design and consulting firm, Ideo, along with brother, author and Ideo partner Tom Kelley, take a deep dive into the nature and power of creativity for anyone in any field. The pair coined the term “creative confidence” to counter the widely held notion that creativity is the exclusive domain of designers, writers, painters, musicians and the like.

“It turns out that creativity isn’t some rare gift to be enjoyed by the lucky few – it’s a natural part of human thinking and behavior,” say the Kelley brothers. “In too many of us, it gets blocked. Creative confidence is like a muscle – it can be strengthened and nurtured through effort and experience.”

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Slip Slidin’ Away

At Cronin Creative, we love the collaborative process of building powerful brands with our clients. After creating something strong, authentic, and unique to that client in their chosen market, we always stress the importance of maintaining that brand, keeping vigilant watch on every element of the messaging, every contact with every customer.

All too often, over time, that last piece of advice winds up being underplayed or even ignored. From a branding point of view, this can be a fatal mistake. Writing in Forbes magazine, author/branding consultant William Arruda summed it up as the difference between a promise made and a promise that’s actually delivered.

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Freeway Branding

We hit the open road this year for our vacation trip to Rhode Island – two long days of driving to our favorite beach. As hard as I tried to leave work behind me, taking the freeway north turned out to be a non-stop branding barrage.

The usual fuel-and-fast-food-ahead signs, cluttered with the familiar logos, were one thing. But the real branding geniuses of the road are the trucking companies. Somewhere along the way, someone figured out that those semi-trailers are good for more than just hauling stuff from here to there. They also serve as billboards, their messages repeated ad infinitum as we made our way north. But – and here’s the catch – you don’t just pass them by like those old school, static billboards. No, these billboards roll right along with you!

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Floating

Most entrepreneurs and business owners have contemplated the much-discussed distinction between working “on” their business as opposed to working “in” their business. With all the things you do, all the multi-tasks you perform working in your business day to day, it’s difficult to find that time to work on it, to gain some genuine clarity and perspective, and reflect on those all-important, long-range plans and decisions.

As we prepare to take our first vacation in way too long, I’m realizing there’s a third option – we’ll call it “floating above” your business. When the daily grind fogs your mind and obscures your focus, it’s okay – in fact it’s essential – that you simply step away. It might be for an hour, for a day, or (in my case!) a week at the beach. Whatever it takes.

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Paper Trail

Last week I joined some of my fellow Nashville-area designers on a day trip to the Domtar Paper Mill in Hawesville, Kentucky. With our guide, genial Domtar regional rep Jason Abernathy, we got a first-hand look at how paper is made. In a nutshell, I was blown away. This humongous facility on the Ohio River operates 24/7, producing a giant (and I mean giant) roll of paper about every 20 minutes. Domtar prides themselves on their sustainable practices, from forestry all the way through the milling process, so it was an inspiring and fascinating day.

I happen to be something of a paper connoisseur. I love everything about the stuff, from the look, to the texture, to the feel of it between my fingers. In fact, in just a couple of feels I can usually give you the name of the paper in question. So I listen with interest to the debate as to whether paper is “going away.” It’s not. But, like the vinyl record, paper is slowly but surely being relegated to a more rarefied, specialized place.

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