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There are many ways to unleash your creativity. Long walks in the park, rocking out in the front row of a concert or sitting in a darkened room until the right ideas just comes to you, are all ways to tap into your creative energy. But one of the easiest ways to connect to your own internal creative resources is to communicate better with your partners and help them unleash their own.

Why it’s all about communication?

We’re all in the communication business. From my dog that (successfully) tells me it’s time for her treat by getting my attention and leading me to the kitchen, to the ads we create that attempt to entertain and delight consumers, everything we do centers on forging communication pathways with new people – and species. When you create that connection you are allowing others’ ideas and your ideas to mingle, and that allows you to synthesize something new. Which is the soul of all creativity. Communicating more effectively with your partners not only allows you to experience their creative power but also allows your inner fire to be stoked by new and different connections.

The top 5 ways to communicate better with your creative partners.

  1. Ask for feedback. We’re all creative. From our account planners to creative leaders we’re all actively engaged in dreaming up new ideas and putting them into practice. So it’s important to let those around you know that you see them as creative professionals as well. Showing them you value any ideas or suggestions to improve your ideas or to spark a completely new one is key to building your team. Remaining open to suggestion and to the influence of the team around you is one sure way to let folks know that you are committed to the creative process. And all you have to do is ask for it.
  2. Don’t solve it for them. Everybody’s an engineer. When you’re providing feedback to other team members it’s easy to tell them how to “fix” their creative execution. The dreaded phrase, “Make the logo bigger!” is a symptom of this challenge. Instead, try suggesting areas that they can address and what goals might better motivate their solutions to certain challenges. That turns the dreaded phrase from a command to a question: “How can you address the brand’s identification in this piece?” Allowing creative professional to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and training is a sure-fire way to keep your team engaged in the creative process.
  3. Remain in the question. Questions are critical to conversations about creative work. But you have to ask the right kind of questions to enhance ideas. Questions like, “Why did you do that?” represent a more aggressive style that can lead to degraded communication with your team. Instead, try using “how” questions to produce more positive effects. “How can we make the headline stronger?” “What are other ways we could demonstrate the point of difference?” Open-ended questions that seek to engage exploration, rather than the motives of creative professionals, build a team atmosphere and allow you to produce better work than you expected.
  4. Expect the unexpected. You will get what you expect. In life and creativity, we all know it’s better to expect great things and then work to make those things happen than to lower your expectations and settle for things that are just acceptable. This is true in communication too. Setting high expectations with your team takes an opening statement: “I know we are about to have a great conversation about this work and come up with some ways to make it even better.”  And follow that up with never settling for simply acceptable ideas. Look for unexpected ways to solve a problem and prepare to be amazed by your team when they start realizing their own potential.
  5. Always start with never. One of this phrases that I use frequently to invite my team to take a creative journey with me is, “I know we’d never, but if we did.” It lets them know that together you we are taking a trip to the unexpected. This goes several steps beyond the old “Don’t say ‘no’” dictum. This is a much broader phrase that says to your team that you expect them to immediately start thinking about things in a whole new way. Not only will no one say “no” to an idea but also your team will say “yes, and…” to every idea.

By communicating more effectively with your team you will allow them to build their own creative fires and your own.