Russel Howcroft has a bone to pick with corporate Australia.
The advertising and media personality and PwC chief creative officer is on a mission to boost creativity in our lives and our jobs.
Speaking to a group of entrepreneurs at the Silicon Block conference in Melbourne recently, Howcroft said creativity was the ‘X-factor’ of success that can stay with you in all walks of life – and also the ingredient that brings financial gain, but that this often goes forgotten.
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The problem with creativity in Australia
Howcroft said he’s often asked what the best advertisement ever made for Australia is, tossing around possible answers such as Tourism Australia’s So Where The Bloody Hell Are You advertisement, or actress Nicole Kidman.
“No – the best advertisement ever made for Australia is the Sydney Opera House. There’s no question,” he said.
“The Sydney Opera House is an insane piece of creativity, as we all know.”
The Sydney Opera House will keep delivering returns for hundreds of years – in fact, forever, he added.
However, at its time of conception, plans for the building ran into naysayers, including engineers, finance officers and lawyers.
“So the rational, spreadsheet, left-brain people did all they could to get in the way of something unbelievably creative,” Howcroft said.
Despite the Opera House’ success, “spreadsheet people still find it really hard to put creative people at the centre of business thinking,” Howcroft said.
“They really struggle with it.
“So what the creative fraternity has got to do is… continuously fight for the right to be at the top table.”
And he has a solution.
“My recommendation is to partner up with the spreadsheet people.”
But the education system also needs to be reconfigured to boost creativity.
“The thing is, in our education system, we teach creativity out of people,” he said.
Citing NASA research, Howcroft pointed out that only 2 per cent of adults are considered to have genius levels of creativity, while a stunning 98 per cent of 5-year-olds are creative geniuses.
But all is not lost: you can improve your creativity, and it isn’t difficult – but it does take a bit of practice.
There’s no shortcut
Speaking alongside Howcroft was Australian creative director and copywriter Alex Wadelton. The pair have co-written a book together called The Right-Brain Workout which has 70 questions designed by some of Australia’s most creative minds to ignite your imagination.
According to Wadelton, there’s no shortcut to being creative.
“The answer is – you just have to be creative, you just need to do it every day,” he said.
The questions in the book are as diverse as using your artistic skills (‘draw your surname as a heavy metal logo’) – to anthropomorphising tornados (‘If a tornado had feelings, what do you think they would be?’) – to the irreverent (‘A vampire, a werewolf and a demon walk into a bar, but the bouncer blocks the door and points to the ‘NO DOGS ALLOWED’ sign. How do they talk their way in?’)
“Who knows what the answer is going to be? There’s a completely infinite number of responses,” Wadelton said.
“That gives you an opportunity to do something that no one has ever ever [seen].
“The idea of it is part mindfulness, part therapy, part stupid, and part fun.”
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