“We are all creative”: A Q&A with Timothy Jones on harnessing our creative powers

Creativity isn’t limited to those who pen movie screenplays or spend their days painting portraits.

We can all use creativity to help us reach our goals, particularly when it comes to connecting with audiences and becoming better marketers.

In this Q&A, Banfield President Timothy Jones explains steps we can all take to unlock our creative powers.

Banfield: What does creativity mean to you?

Timothy Jones: Creativity is, to me, connected closely to the notion of change. Our lives are, in many ways, defined by change — all that is inevitable and natural and uncontrollable and needed. Creativity allows us to deal with change, to make change happen and to get others to embrace the change. One of my “creative” idols, James Victore, says “creativity is dangerous”. It forces us to challenge our norms, to propose illogical ideas and push us out of our comfort zones. That’s why creativity is so important: It allows us to harness the benefits of change so that we can adapt, embrace and grow with it.

It is our ability as humans to harness and master creativity that has led our major advancements and it is what continues to lead us forward still. Creativity is problem solving. It is your ability to see things in new ways, to make new connections, to bring unlikely things together and create new solutions. It is being able to see things through fresh eyes. It is also about not being scared to fail, taking risks, being positive and having passion for what you are doing. It is about loving the process and the journey —  and then, once we’ve gotten where we’re going, taking the time to look back to identify how we can improve when we do it all over again. That’s what I love about creativity: This notion that, if we trust the creative process, the final product or outcome will take care of itself.

Why is creativity so important in a business and marketing context?

Creativity is so essential for any business or organization that wants to be able to connect with its audience and stay ahead in its field.

A great example of the power of creativity is Banfield’s success over its 45-plus years in business. Creativity — or the creative output of the minds of our team — is what we offer and what we sell. Clients come to us for our creativity and we’re able to offer them value in the form of innovations, great ideas, our grasp of trends, our new ways of looking at problems or overcoming challenges and our abilities to make connections. I would argue it is the core of everything that we offer. It keeps us fresh, current, alive, always in motion, moving forward.

This is exactly what our clients are looking for when they partner with us.

Your opinion that “everyone is creative” will come as a surprise to many people who don’t feel “creative”. What do you mean when you say it?

When many people think of “creativity”, they imagine drawing pictures or choosing colour combinations or clever wordplay. They think it’s unmeasurable, touchy-feely, flighty, not serious, hard to define or to put into specific boxes and only the purview of a selected few.

But creativity is so much more than that. It’s part of everything we do and we practice it more often than we realize.

That’s why I hate it when people say “I am not creative”. We are all creative. We all continuously have to adapt to change daily. In that process, everyone becomes capable of thinking differently and looking at a problem from a fresh angle. If you know how to walk, breathe, talk or how to get yourself into work each day then you know how to be creative. We just need to learn how to use our creativity to its fullest. That means learning to believe we all have creative powers in us – it’s just a muscle that we all possess and flex in different ways, that has to be developed and practiced. It is hard being intentionally creative. It demands that you put the work in it but ultimately is so much more rewarding.

The fact of the matter is that great ideas can come from anyone.

What are the calling cards for creativity?

I can think of a few different things here.

  • Fearlessness: Go for it, don’t overthink it, don’t wait for a perfect answer/solution. Start something, put your bad ideas on paper.
  • Vulnerability: Be open to failing, sounding dumb, making mistakes, trusting your gut/instincts.
  • Generosity (sharing): Give your ideas away so others can take them and make them better. Ownership (AKA ego) can be the death of creativity.
  • Awkwardness: When things start to get uncomfortable you know you are on the right path. Don’t try to relieve this feeling; keep pushing through it! Struggle, enjoy the process, languish in it. To be truly creative you need to love the process more than the result.
  • Flow: There is nothing quite like the “flow” state. When everything just aligns perfectly all the other qualities have lined up and things just start to, well, flow. It may not last long, so learn to recognize it and maximize that time the best you can.

What can people who don’t have the word “creative” in their job title do to bring creativity in their life and work?

Creativity comes to us in the most unexpected places and usually not when we are trying to objectively solve a problem. That’s why I’ve found the notion of play to be so important in helping me be creative. If we steep ourselves in logic too soon, we get uninspiring answers. By playing we can distract our brain to prevent overthinking and let down the barriers we put up. We open ourselves up and let our thoughts flow. If you can find ways to bring play into what you are doing, you can put a little bit of yourself into your work, your opinions and style.

Simple things can help too. For example: Give yourself permission to be bad at something. By getting all the bad ideas out – the logical and obvious solutions – you open yourself up to new and exciting ideas. This can be uncomfortable and awkward. But if you keep pushing through to the other side, new innovative ideas can start to flow. Solving problems in new environments can help too. You’d be amazed at what a simple change of scenery can to do to alter how you think.

Here’s an example: A builder could build a house that suits all of our needs for shelter – to keep us warm and dry from the elements. Or a builder could build a house that inspires themselves as they build it as well as the inhabitants who will come to live in it. That builder could put some of their ideas, personality, play, and opinions into the construction to create something that will in turn elicit certain emotions from its inhabitants – friendliness, coziness, grandeur, safety, etc. That is being creative, solving problems with solutions that feed your passion and drive to do better, to do more and not to be afraid of the hard work it requires to get it done.

It might come to us from unexpected places, but creativity is really something we all can – and should – harness.

Timothy Jones is the President of Banfield.

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