IN a timely contribution to the nationwide discussion on and drive towards excellence in education, Universiti Malaya's Asia-Europe Institute (AEI) recently organised a talk on "Creativity and Business: Lessons from the Advertising Industry". The lecture was moderated by AEI's Datuk Mat Amir Jaafar and delivered by Dr Mark Kilgour of Waikato Management School, New Zealand.
Kilgour illustrated constraints we face because of our fixed mental habits. A question like, "How much is one half of 12?" will rarely produce a creative response. The good news is, well-structured learning exercises that incorporate elements of play and imagination can lead our thinking habits away from this uncreative, automatic impulse.
In learning to be more creative, we are often told to "think outside the box". The reality is more complicated, however, because original ideas must be not only unusual but also relevant and appropriate. In our part of the world, can you imagine someone selling "beautiful accounting software"? Well, a New Zealand software company called Xero has just done that, earning US$60 million (RM193 million) in revenue worldwide.
The creative process in an industry, such as advertising, starts with knowledge that cuts across different domains of thought. Divergent (free-flowing, spontaneous) thinking is brought in to produce original ideas. Next, convergent thinking is needed to refine the ideas and place them in a structure. Finally, it takes strong expression capabilities, coupled with confidence, to bring a novel idea to its target audience.
In client interactions, marketing and advertising professionals have a juggling act on their hands as they are tasked with innovative ideas, which at the same time must build on and acknowledge the tradition and reputation of the client company. As a result, strong skills in relationship-building, rapport with customers and communicating new ideas will go a long way in "selling" the outcomes of a creative process.
Martin Kralik, former research director, centres of excellence, INSEAD Asia & Middle East, doctoral candidate (by research), Asia-Europe Institute, Universiti Malaya New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 4 June 2014