Infuse some creativity into your strategy

Does your general need a ball gown?

Ok, let’s back up. I’ve been thinking about the term “creative strategy”, although it isn’t really so much of a term but perhaps something in it resonates for you as it does for me? If we explore the ideas of creativity and strategy, it seems these two realms are often in conflict. I love archetypes, so let’s create a few. In looking at the etymology of the word “strategy” it goes back to military campaigns, so let’s make the general the “strategy left-brained” archetype. For the opposite side, I’ll choose the dancer for the “creative right-brained” archetype. The dancer pulls together music, movement, visuals and the body.

Our culture highly values the general and working for meaningful social change can feel like it leans heavily on strategy and the left side of the brain. Nonprofits have extensive strategic planning processes to get clear on their direction and goals. Businesses create strategies to make sure their mission can be backed up by the money. But what happens at the end of those processes? Sometimes things change, but often plans end up dry and boring, stuck on a shelf somewhere collecting dust. (You know it’s true.)

And what about creativity? What do you think of when you hear that word? I’m guessing you’re conjuring up something like a Picasso painting, or a beautiful piece of music. Realms that, while nice, aren’t really essential. Our dancer might take your breath away for a moment, but ultimately isn’t very… practical.

Like it or not, strategy is usually in the driver’s seat at an organization. However, creativity must help bring that strategy to life. For example: we know your new website needs to provide extensive information about the work you are doing. When you begin to get lost in the words and concepts, try bringing in the dancer. First, they might ask you to check in with your body (eek!) They’ll ask questions like “How can we make the experience your audience has fun? What kinds of feelings do we want people to have?” The dancer might even ask you to enjoy the process.

When I kick of a project with a client, we always have what we call the “Discovery Workshop”. This is my favorite part of the work I do. In it we flow freely from between strategic thinking and creative thinking. We talk about the organizational goals and the emotional personality of the brand. We bounce from visioning to strategic plans and explore ways that each can inform the other. It’s a beautiful interplay.

So, the next time you’re thinking about how to engage your audiences, create a case for giving or communicate your impact, can the general dust off that ball gown? Or better yet, invite the dancer to play?