Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Do the things! How we found our mojo through making

By Laura Hewitt, Senior Coach, &us

If this year has revealed anything about creativity it’s that an epic constraint (erm, like not being able to leave the house for 3 months) won’t dampen human creativity. If anything, it fuels it. 

Humans were made to make stuff. Otherwise, we’d have no wheel, no art, and no theme parks. Tell us there are new rules that threaten to hold us back, and we’ll tap into deeper instincts to bend those rules, in even more remarkable ways. 

Lockdown has released our inner maker.

Just look at the immense rise of Tiktok. In the US alone they added 12 million users in quarantine due to people’s inherent need to create. (And show off). Entertaining ourselves is a primal need, and it’s kicked in big time, with a swing of their hips, a weird transition and that song about Carole Baskin. 

Could we be in the biggest example of collective experimentation and innovation we have ever seen?  This maker spirit isn’t just restricted to the great and less great of Silicon Valley; we’ve seen the newly entrepreneurial everywhere. My new favourite is US dance studio owner and choreographer, Ryan Heffington, who faced with no work hosted a virtual dance studio from his quarantine apartment which now draws thousands of people to his Instagram. This weekly cathartic cardio dance workout drags people from all over the world, from Russia to Japan, through the lockdown blues. It’s not just the mega brands making the boldest moves in – this time the making is coming from kitchens and bedrooms.  It’s scary, but exciting. 

In fact, most exciting things are scary at one stage.  This is why we tell our clients to start by starting. We tell them not to think too much. Which is hard, since many of our clients have degrees and PHDs and MBAs. Being a genius is great… apart from when it results in constant over-analysis. 

But in this crisis there’s been no time for “could we, would we, should we?”. In every corner of every industry people are jumping in and adapting, with rule books being thrown out the window. And once you start, it’s not that scary anymore. 

We become freer when we ignore the over-preparer in our heads – that annoying voice that tells you to worry about how people will react to an idea, and filters your thoughts. It’s what improvisers know when they say “accept the offer”. Life throws curve balls. We just need to just get better at catching them.

But the best are on hand to help us. The BBC series Grayson’s Art Club drew 1.3 million viewers a week, as the Turner Prize winner went on a mission to bring the nation together through art. Each week there was a theme (The view from my window, Great Britain, Animals, Fantasy) and viewers send in their pieces, with selected submissions going into an exhibition when the crisis subsides.  

Whilst Perry talks to artists, creatives and celebrities over Zoom it’s the creativity of everyday people that stands out: those who would never normally see themselves as artists. Even when it’s a picture of a bin, the results are brilliantly human, epitomising the ordinary-extraordinarily spirit in everyone to make, even when the world is spinning out of control.

The more years people work, the more they have the magic and spontaneity stamped out of them. At &us, we believe that’s a tragedy. That’s why we tell people to stop thinking, unleash their inner maker, and start experimenting. 

These times have created some immense pressures, and for many businesses the most productive way to respond is to invent and diversify. So, we coach teams to undo their inner critics. It’s not easy but it is deeply satisfying to see someone throw off the shackles of corporate nonsense.  

And when that spirit kicks in, you’re unstoppable. Play with everything: your digital products, your internal communications platforms, your HR strategy, your pricing model, where you work, even! If it’s scary, it’s probably exciting, too. 

First, we face the fear.  Then we do the things. It’s really that simple.

&us has released a new, refreshing guide to innovation called Faster Moving Consumer Goods. It’s an exercise book for our times that’ll get you and your teams making. With insights, stories, cases studies and a brand new people-powered model for success. Download here