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On Staying Fresh

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On Staying Fresh

After a recent In Tha’ Know session and BLP Digital Webinar on the theme of expansion, Group Concept Director Scott Biggers asked a number of people- inside and  outside the agency- the following question. After the jump are a number of their responses compiled to help you in your own process of expansion.

How do you expand  your thinking and  stay fresh, creatively?

  • Travel is the opportunity to expand .  I read more, I am more curious and  it’s uninterrupted think time.
  • I google… Just any question or thought… And see where that takes me.  It’s like a mini-scavenger hunt for ideas
  • I ask my kids… They have such an innocent, fresh approach to so many things that if we can see things through their eyes it’s eye opening
  • Newspaper… Old school… I seem to expand  my thinking when I’ve got the paper in my hand … It gives me the focus I need to search for the one article of the day that lights up something in me
  • Time to Think: I try to give myself 30 minutes of open time to think without an objective.  “Action is the enemy of thought!”
  • The Work: CAT, Communication Arts, Award Winners, and  industry pubs are obvious, but reading and  staying up on our industry is key.
  • Home Remodel, Interior Design: I’ve always got a project going on around the house or on a remodel.  Totally different than what we do, but requires a great deal of creativity and  vision.
  • Guilty Pleasure: Creative oriented reality TV.  If they have to create something on the show I’m in.
  • Our Team: Each week our group brings in a “Teach & Learn” where we share news or thoughts. Great way to keep up with what’s happening and  get different perspectives at the same time.
  • My best friend Google Reader.  My most trusted resource. A microcosm of all of my favorite sites fed to me at the variety and  speed of my pleasure. Also I have a widget on iGoogle for google trends.  Keeps me up to date on what’s trending on google at the moment.  Pretty fascinating to see the trends, and  then attempt to track back where they came from. Oh, and  Tosh.O – Recently beating Colbert and  Stewart in ratings on Comedy Central.
  • Read as many advertising annuals that I can get my hand s on (Archive, One Show Annuals, Communication Arts, etc). They inspire new ways of thinking. Forcing yourself to think in terms of “print ads” oftentimes requires you to simplify your ideas down to their core.
  • Listen to music. Pand ora allows me to expose myself to new band s, and  that music becomes the soundtrack of my imagination.
  • Watch music videos. It’s a dying art, but music videos often showcase the most interesting trends in filmmaking.
  • Check in with Goodby Silverstein and  Wieden + Kennedy and  seeing what work they’re putting out. It’s always the best stuff out there.
  • Travel. Not exactly an original idea, but it works for several reasons.
  • First, it requires that you pay attention.  Anyone who takes the same route into the office everyday can attest to this.  When you’re in a new city/place and  don’t know your way around, you have to work at it a little bit. Second, travelling gives you different perspectives – from how street signs are designed to what people are wearing. Finally, the people are different.  This is especially true when travelling outside of the country, but if you’re from NYC and  travel to Baton Rouge, you’re likely to encounter people who seem quite foreign.
  • Spend some time with kids.  They look at things differently, typically have good energy, and  are less jaded.
  • Turn on the TV.  Just don’t turn it on a channel that normally interests you.  Get out of the habit of turning on the ballgame and  instead flip it over to your local PBS channel for an episode of “BooBah,” which has been described as “Teletubbies on acid.”  Me?  I watched “Project Runway” (Bravo) the other night.  Fascinating stuff.
  • I listen, reasonably regularly, to the radio stations our kids listen to, just to see. Watching through the eyes of children is awesome.
  • We go to live music, and  not just the Springsteen and  Sting and  U2 tours (though that too). We go see new — recently saw Silversun Pickups, Josh Ritter — even at the risk of being “those old people” in the room.
  • Sunday New York Times Crossword.
  • Every fourth or so book purchase for my Kindle, I take a flyer on something new/different/recommended that is outside my comfort zone.
  • I shift roles within my company every few years — a luxury I have. Means I have to stay sharp and  understand  intersecting trends, new technologies, and  how they crossover. Business models evolve, etc. I’m very fortunate for that.
  • Keep meeting new people, try new recipes, tell new jokes, make myself vaguely uncomfortable somehow (surf camp 2 years ago, Bikram yoga this winter, etc.).
  • Most obviously, by reading a lot: industry enewsletters, blogs. General news sources. Compelling books, nonfiction and  fiction. (Mostly electronic editions across the board; I find them easier to traverse.)
  • Writing outside my field. I’m working on my second novel now (even as I just submit my first to an agent). Writing fiction helps keeps my thinking creative, and  moves me out of my interactive village for a time.
  • Going to what’s next, like my move from traditional interactive to mobile. I think some of this is possible within a niche discipline, but it’s nice to venture out if you can.
  • Engaging with God through small groups, meaningful worship, and , for the past year, observing elements of the Daily Office/Divine Hours. Connecting with the Creator is the best way I know of to keep oneself fresh, alive, and , yes, creative. He invented the creative process!
  • Counterplay, like Mad Men. The writing is remarkable; the show is compelling.
  • I think one of the best ways to become fresh for creative thinking is to unlearn everything so I can see everything through fresh eyes.
  • Practicing presence is crucial. Staying present in the moment and  not giving my thoughts away to the past or the future puts me in the right place to be creative.
  • Remembering that there are three modalities of doing that align my life with the creative power of the universe. They are Acceptance (accept that what I am doing even if it is undesirable is still necessary or I wouldn’t be doing it), Enjoyment (what I am doing is a pleasure and  fills me with joy), and  Enthusiasm (what I am doing is something that I love to do and  would rather be doing it than almost anything else).
  • Losing my roles in life (creative director, professor, father, husband ) so that I can do whatever is required in any situation without becoming a role that I identify with in the process. In this way, I think in less structured ways (the way a creative director thinks or a father thinks) and  instead, only think in ways that serve the present moment.
  • Meditating, praying and  reading.
  • I go to the mall. To me the mall is the perfect snapshot of consumer culture. I watch people. What they are wearing. What shopping bags they have. Hair styles. Band  T-shirts. What the teens are doing. What the moms are doing. I check out the stores. Get a sense for fashion trends. Who is doing the cool displays. I call it idea shopping. The hard part is not looking creepy.
  • I read,, The Nice mix of political, cultural and  larger trend pieces from the Left, the Middle and  the Right. I try to think about how each story might apply to the brand s I’m working on.
  • I check out aggregator sites like (not always SFW) to get a feel for what’s going viral and  what’s funny right now.
  • I try to hang out with friends and  family that have absolutely nothing to do with the advertising and  marketing business. We have a tendency to exist in an echo chamber. Turns out a lot of people could give less than two shits about Twitter and  Foursquare.
  • Scotch.