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Creativity is not a Switch

Radical ideas require a few key attributes.

“Creativity” is a word used so often in business vernacular it has almost lost all meaning. After spending five years in management consulting, a year in the Kellogg MMM program and a summer as a strategy intern at frog, I’ve come to the conclusion that creativity is attainable, but it is not a switch. It’s a gradual shift towards embracing vulnerability, authenticity and tenacity. This is how I’ve seen these beliefs reinforced during my summer at frog, which can help frame how you approach creativity.

Vulnerability
A willingness to be vulnerable is required for creativity. In my previous experience in consulting and even in business school, I’ve seen how many people are afraid to let their guard down for fear of being wrong, judged or looking silly. The goal is to work in a place where personal and professional goals and values are aligned, where you don’t have to be two versions of yourself between work and home. This makes it a lot easier to think freely, differently—and to be as weird as you want to be without pressure.

Authenticity
Our outside experiences and influences can shape where our best ideas come from, which is why they should be celebrated in the workplace rather than asked to be left at home. One of my favorite examples of authenticity was an initiative introduced this summer in the frog San Francisco studio. Called Culture5, it is now part of our Monday morning all-hands meeting. The idea is to let anyone share anything they are passionate about—from the rise of LaCroix, nuances of comic books, to gifting the most expensive and perfect fruit. Topics may have a design component, but they don’t have to be directly related to our work. Taking these five minutes to share inspiration encourages us to be more authentic in and out of the office, and therefore more comfortable to create.

Tenacity
Tenacity is critical in the work of structuring creativity. Embracing a strong point of view and telling a good story are critical to the strategy discipline because they create a lasting impact with frogs and with clients. It is important not to settle during any part of the design process, but to synthesize methodically and rigorously to really hone in on what makes each insight interesting. These tasks aren’t performed in a vacuum. No one sits in a room until an “aha” moment strikes; this type of work takes persistence. In the design process, you have to be comfortable rolling with the punches. Tenacity proves you can be bold with new ideas (even when you’re wrong), take a hit, get back up and do it all over again.

Creativity is worth striving for in business, but it does not happen on its own—just putting innovative people together doesn’t mean you will get to a radical idea. During my summer at frog, I’ve seen how vulnerability, authenticity, and tenacity manifest themselves in my work here now, and how I will approach work in the future, freeing me to be more creative.

Adam Attas

Adam is a strategy intern in the SF studio and student in the Kellogg MMM program, pursuing an MBA and MS in Design Innovation. As tech plays a role in our everyday lives, he pushes for more-than-incremental product change. He focuses on connected health and mindfulness, stemming from his time as a competitive tennis player. You can occasionally find him on the court, trying to relive his glory days.

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