How marketers can involve the whole company in the idea generation process

Andy Bolter, creative partner at Yes&Pepper argues that collaboration and inclusivity are the lifeblood of the ideas generation process

Customer service assistant. Administrator. Account manager. Art director. Creative. Job titles like these often isolate individuals to a distinct field and act as a metaphoric barrier to many agencies involving employees in the creative process. What does it mean to be a creative and what does it mean to be creative? The receptionist answering your company's calls every day could be the same person to come up with your next great marketing campaign. Job titles and experience shouldn’t create boundaries when it comes to creativity. My mantra has never changed during my time in the marketing industry, especially in B2B marketing, which can be quite reserved; ideas don’t understand boundaries, so don’t put up barriers to stifle the creative process.

The creative process should be collaborative. Not only should it involve different roles, it should also include different departments. Like a journey to a foreign destination, the HR officer who sits in his office on the 12th floor may be anxious to take the first tentative step from behind his desk and make his way down to the quirky creative department. However, once the journey is made, the creation process will be enriched with some vast knowledge and strong experience. Even individuals with no experience in marketing can be key players in the field of creating ideas. We live in an age where nearly everyone hones their self-branding everyday through social media and thus have become more savvy at marketing. Agencies and clients can benefit from this richer palette of opinions.

Bringing a team together is only the start. However, this is different to building teamwork. There’s a quote from Andrew Carnegie that defines teamwork: “the ability to work together towards a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments towards organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” This is valuable advice that should be considered and practised by anyone that is involved in the creative process.   

Confidence to express ideas is typically the most difficult part in the collaboration process. A simple frown is as fatal to a new idea as corrosion is to metal. However, only once the rust is gone can we see if it’s a rocket aiming for the stars or a dustbin full of rubbish. Many agencies have the mentality that it’s much easier to not believe in a new idea than to nurture and develop it. But ideas don’t appear like magic, and every successful campaign begins with a simple thought.

Not everyone is as happy or prepared to share their views; these are the people who need to be focused on and appreciated for being different. Even the most creative person has doubt over an idea they thought of at some point in their lives; I know I have, but it’s about how you break down this invisible wall of insecurity that matters. This is where the beauty of tech comes into play - you can enable people to take part, without causing any social distress, through communication cloud platforms.

This is the  initial part of the collaboration process, ‘the inspiration period’. Once this is done, the lead creatives can have a look at all the ideas and share their thoughts, discuss, clash and build until there are clear favourites. These ideas are then nurtured by the creative team (with continual input from the wider team) as to be built on further and, ultimately, create a successful campaign.

Building ideas is hard work, it’s bloody and it takes a team effort – demanding more from each other, driving ideas forward and finally producing a cocoon that will burst open and become a beautiful butterfly, a cub that will grow to become a roaring lion. You must have faith in even the smallest ideas, because that’s where the strength lies. So, invite the receptionist up to the drawing board and let her add some inspiration to the campaign. Let the ideas flow, and embrace a new idea with gratitude, not rejection. But most importantly, bring down any fences between the company, the client and the creative process.