mvpI’m often asked, “how do you come up with creative ideas?”. I usually answer, “It’s a process”. It’s true, understanding how ideas are cultivated and developed into great creative executions is why I also say, ”Creativity isn’t a talent, it’s an obligation”.

It’s this obligation that most people never learn to respect and incorporate into their creative personal and professional lives. Every great artist, designer or director of creativity uses some sort of process, bringing successful appreciation or effective results to what they create. But how much time did they spend getting there? Or, did they use the same methods every time to achieve their goals?

Author John Maxwell, author of, Talent is Never Enough, writes, “The key choices you make – apart from the natural talent you already have – will set you apart from others who have talent alone. Talent + right choices = a Talent-Plus Person.” If you have read this book, you’ll know that he is referring to a 16-step process to recognizing and behaving in a way that takes your talent to new a level of value. His steps are not just about cultivating ideas, they are about understanding your abilities and being in-tune with them to reach farther to achieve peak performance – a skill that takes an obligated attitude.

Sure, I have a process.  It’s a 9-step journey to uncovering insights and developing ideas. It is also a path to appreciating persuasion, respecting measurement and being in-tune to my creative balance – perspective and objectivity, including steps that allow for ideas to mature (incubate) and finally, understanding the difference between “execution” and “production” – there is a difference.

So if everyone uses a process, why is it that so few actually achieve greatness? It is this question that points to whether someone is seen as successful or valuable. Using a process can make you successful – just ask any ad agency. There have been many books written about process and the science of creativity. Removing subjectivity and adding a proven system for getting results differentiates one ad agency or designer from another.

It is when a creative person becomes so in-tune with their process that he or she pushes the aspects (the details) of that process to a commitment level more similar to an obsession than anything else. He becomes obligated to things like exploration, collaboration, measurement and the art of persuasion, thus becoming more valuable than others practicing the same process. Taking it to another level, this person incorporates balance in her life with other creative outlets of inspiration, helping to remove emotional bias and instilling clarity between their creative professional and personal life.

The difference between good to great shouldn’t be measured by success. Instead, greatness, associated with talent, should be valued by obligation and commitment.

“Creativity isn’t a talent, it’s an obligation.”
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After 17 years in the advertising agency business I’ve realized a vital key aspect of success. I have to give up my own ideas for the opportunity of a better one. Beyond my own self delusional compulsion to “do it right” lies a possible idea at the edge of darkness ready to be birthed. There’s only one thing stopping it. Me.

Yes, I still believe that I’m good at what I do. Yes I am a perfectionist. And no I don’t think that an idea should set sail just to give some irrelevant ignorant conception a chance. However, the opportunity should exist within a creative process that allows for new thoughts and challenges to exist. True collaboration starts with no one owning anything.

To the extent of how this process can be done effectively is the slight difference between obligation and responsibility. Obligation is the commonality shared by those who are devoted to the PROCESS to solve the creative challenge. Responsibility is the ego centric bologna that has ruined the conservative agency model and any other creative educational methodology since. Surrendering the ownership of both obligation and responsibility is how you win.

In fact, this is exactly how crowdsourcing done correctly can be successful. I’ve completed many of these events as a Creative Director and to this day am involved with non profit crowdsourcing projects with 30 plus talented people each time. All within a 30 hour timespan from start to finish. It’s one of the most rewarding things I do.

Today I’m an educator. I’m obligated to the process of putting the right teachers in classrooms and to the curriculums that are relevant to the creative industries we send our students out to conquer. Does this make me, our teachers and our students immune to the conundrum of the fore mentioned plague? Of course not. Why because there still exists the ego. Do I still suffer from it? Yes. The truth is in the fact that I want the reward of claiming the responsibility of the idea so I can claim the acceptance of others in a world littered with finger pointing.

Here’s the real truth. In order to be accepted by others, to claim respect, integrity and honor, I have to give up being responsible for it all. I have to surrender the burden of taking it all on myself. When I share the obligation AND the responsibility with others then we all win. We’re all moving together in the same direction. And that also means we all share in the reward together.

This effort takes real commitment by everyone. Those involved can’t just “do their part” and expect the results to be successful. It takes dedication, trust and…passion. Yes passion. Because without giving a shit, there’s no real effort. In the end the weakest links pull apart the strongest chain. However, those that are crazy enough to say it can be done, are usually the ones that get it done.

You might say, that sounds like utopia. And you might be right. But utopia might just be the idea on the edge of darkness, just waiting to be birthed.

Bruce Stanley is a Creative Director and the Graphic Design Coordinator at Nossi College of Art. His belief in the ability to control your creative destiny is why he enjoys sharing his expertise and experiences with others. You can reach him though his blog, caretocreate.com, twitter, @bsimage or at bruce@nossi.edu.