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January 05, 2021

By: Mindy Sears, VP, Group Creative Director

The Need for Agility and Creativity: Lessons From 2020

In the face of the strangest and most difficult year in recent memory, the chrysalis of what evolved was some of the most truly innovative strategies and creative solutions for circumstances that we were not in control of. It’s not that these approaches to solutions didn’t exist before, but it was the manifestation of the need for a quick and adaptive solution that allowed these methodologies to come into their own.

Take working parents as an example. The New York Times found that 80% of parents who were both working remotely during the pandemic were also handling childcare and education. During a speaker series at work, some of my colleagues talked about how they iterated and adapted to this circumstance. They converted their living rooms into learning spaces and their backyard gardens into playgrounds, all while splitting work hours to ensure kids had supervision and enrichment. The creativity and resilience shown in circumstances like these have been incredibly inspiring. 

Concepting and creativity can come from anywhere and anyone, but it’s a skill that needs to be exercised regularly. Iteration in the face of current needs has boosted this skill set for everyone, and it will be a trait we can continue to train as we head into 2021.

Companies and individuals in many industries have brainstormed invigorating, creative solutions to the problems the pandemic has produced. Some of these examples can help us fully embrace agile creativity as we move forward, such as:

  • Entertainment

One of the consequences of the COVID-19 lockdown across the world has been that almost all cultural venues have suspended operations in some form. Cinemas, music clubs, theaters, and museums have closed or have limited-capacity viewings.

The Arts & Culture initiative by Google currently offers virtual visits to about 500 museums throughout the world, including MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum, the National Gallery and the British Museum in London, the Musée D’Orsay, and Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

A particularly innovative exhibition was when the Getty Museum recently shared an online exhibition from Ed Ruscha (“12 Sunsets”) that allows the user to navigate through documentation of Ruscha’s photo studies of Sunset Boulevard from both sides of the street and in different years dating back to 1965. It’s a truly innovative experience that can allow visitors to time travel from the comfort of home.

  • Food service

Our neighborhood businesses needed to reinvent how they were operating in order to survive. Many didn’t, but the ones who did began with figuring out how to cater to their customers and sell products in the face of a shutdown.

Local craft breweries immediately had to transform their businesses into a more streamlined digital experience for to-go orders, partnering with food trucks nearby to add to the offering. Local restaurants found ways to streamline to-go orders and incorporate delivery services as well. Over the past few months, we’ve seen this model evolve to support outdoor dining with the additions of neighborhood parklets, designated outdoor spaces with social distancing, and table service.

  • Telehealth

With the healthcare system strained already, it seemed like a natural time for telehealth to become more popular. For a few years now, I’ve been using San Francisco-based Circle Medical, an app that connects you with doctors around the city with profiles and background information. You can book an appointment and store your insurance and payment information so that everything is already taken care of once you have a visit.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Circle Medical has seen double-digit growth and quickly updated its app to accommodate COVID response. Earlier this year, I had my first call with a nurse to determine my level of health before taking a COVID test (no symptoms; it was just precautionary prior to travel). The process was simple and secure, with a quick in-person visit to a location and documented results with a doctor’s note received less than 48 hours later.

Each example above takes a different direction with its digital transformations. All these tools existed pre-pandemic, but the creativity in each industry has allowed customization to fit the needs of each individual instance.

Embracing Agile Creativity

Marketers and brands that want to utilize aspects of creative and innovative approaches to solutions can take a few proactive measures:

  1. Think bigger. Don’t be satisfied with just one answer, as there can be (and usually are) multiple ways to solve a problem. Trial and refinement are parts of the creative process, so don’t hesitate to explore the “dumb idea” because it could work out wonderfully. The first big idea shouldn’t be the final idea. Just like improv, try to use a “yes, and ...” approach.
  2. Collaborate broader. Rely on your team members and outside inputs for thoughts and ideas. Breaking down silos and sharing solutions allows others to have a stake in the answers. Honest communication is critical and having a forum to express thoughts and critique freely is important, but egos, negativity, or resistance to this type of workflow can hinder its effectiveness. Providing support and constructive feedback to colleagues will allow team members to grow and thrive.
  3. Fail better. Embrace the freedom to fail. Help each other up and empower teams to present other solutions as contingencies, or provide additional headspace to continue to iterate. This will encourage bold thinking and taking leaps of faith.

As mentioned above, with the transformation seen in local businesses in my particular neighborhood, marketers are now in a unique situation to experience this in their own localities. Embracing these principles is necessary to keep building on the momentum we’ve begun.


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