What Thyme Can Teach You About Being Creative

thymeQuite recently, I have taken up gardening as a hobby. So far, I’ve planted a variety of herbs, including rosemary, basil, cilantro, and mint, as well as tomatoes and orchids.

I’m enjoying it very much and cannot express the satisfaction I find in watching my plants grow and eventually make their way into my dinner.

What I’ve realized over the past few weeks is that nurturing my plants has several similar qualities to encouraging creativity at work. In this week’s post, I’ll discuss what gardening can teach you about creativity in the office.

Research

When I first started gardening, I did a ton of research on which plants are easiest for beginners, what works well for apartment dwellers, etc. I’ve mentioned several times how important research is to the design and creative process, and there I was researching whether parsley likes direct or indirect sunlight! It seems that the design process has truly seeped into every part of my life.

In the workplace, research is absolutely fundamental to creative thinking. Without fully understanding the problem, you can’t possibly come up with the best solution.

It Takes Thyme (Get it?)

Just like anything worth doing, gardening and creativity take time to work properly. Particularly in the beginning, you’ll need to devote time to setting up the correct environment.

At work, you may need to push others to adopt creative ideas or processes. It will probably be very time consuming, but in the end it’s well worth the work.

Communication

I know what you’re thinking – what on earth does communication have to do with gardening?

In 1848, German professor Gustav Fechner published a book that argued that plants benefit from human conversation. Since then, a number of experiments have been done to test this theory.  In 2008, the Discovery Channel’s MythBusters created an experiment that measured how plants responded to recorded loving praise, recorded cruel insults, or no sound at all. They reported that “the silent greenhouse performed poorest, producing lower biomass and smaller pea pods than the other two.” Researchers theorize that this could be because plants respond to the vibrations that come from sound.

You must also communicate creatively, but the type of communication will most definitely affect the results. Constructive criticism is absolutely essential, but can be a bit tricky. Often, you experience one of two problems with critiques. The first is when coworkers are too timid and afraid to offend the work or the person who created it. This results in insufficient feedback, and the project is stunted. The second occurs when coworkers are too aggressive and offensive.

One way to fix these problems is to pick up on Pixar’s practice of “plussing.” Basically, during critiques, coworkers are not allowed to offer negative feedback unless they have a better suggestion. This keeps the conversation moving forward in a positive direction.

Neglect

A few weeks ago, I went to Tampa for the weekend (to watch the Hurricanes beat USF, yay!) and I came back to find many of my plants horribly sunburnt.

Creativity is the same. It must be cared for on a daily basis. If you neglect the creative process by dismissing ideas without actually considering them, you’ll find the process shuts down altogether.

Environment Matters

Some plants need more sun or water than others. The same goes for members of the creative process. People need to be engaged to be creative. If they are stuck in a rut or a hostile environment they’ll be less likely to perform well. Sometimes when the ideas aren’t flowing, it’s a good idea to move to a new location, whether it’s a different conference room or some benches outside the office.

It’s Okay to Fail

About a month ago, I decided to try something new in my garden – planting herbs from seeds. Unfortunately, not a single seed sprouted. That’s okay though, because I learned what I did wrong, tried again, and have succeeded!

When it comes to creativity, you’re going to face obstacles and sometimes failures. What is important is that you document what you’ve done so you can determine where you made mistakes. Jason Lengtorf once said, “Very few things are a total failure.” I believe that wholeheartedly. Try to think of the last thing you failed at – was it really that big of a failure? Probably not. In fact, if you remember, you’ll probably be able to find something that was distinctly successful about that failure.

Distract Yourself

Have you ever heard the expression “a watched pot never boils”? The same is true of certain creative ideas. Every once in a while, I will encounter a problem for which I just can’t think of a solution. This is usually because I’ve obsessed over some part of the problem or ignored another. So what do I do to fix this?

Watch a few YouTube videos, create a new playlist on Spotify, read a few articles on BuzzFeed, or scroll through Pinterest. By allowing my mind to wander, I am able to attack the problem again, with fresh ideas. It’s like taking a shower, where many people say their best ideas happen. By allowing your conscious mind to wander, you’re allowing your unconscious mind to make connections, which I believe is a key part of creativity.

Diversity

Let’s face it. You can’t eat the same vegetable from your garden every day – you have to mix it up a little. You can do the same at the office. By switching things up a bit, people get a whole new perspective. Maybe try to have your creative meeting outside if the weather is nice, or serving snacks to get everyone motivated.

The Takeaway

In today’s ever-changing, rapidly moving marketplace, it is absolutely crucial that your ideas standout. The only way to do that is to think creatively. Creativity is what puts you ahead of your competitors and on your client’s radar. But creativity isn’t some sort of light switch that you can turn on with the flick of your wrist. It takes work to foster a creative environment, keep people motivated, and produce truly great work that your audience responds to. But if you stay determined, work together as a team, and communicate well, I’m confident that the sky is the limit.

Looking for a marketing team who isn’t afraid of getting their hands a little dirty when it comes to getting creative? Contact Optimum7 for a free consultation today!