A European adventure contemplating the importance of creative visionaries

Andrea Edwards

I’m well over halfway through a five-week trip around Europe with my two sons, and while holidays are always a time of “brain overflow” for me, there is one idea constantly cropping up.

And that is the powerful impact of creative visionary thinkers when they are given the licence to express their truth.

Throughout history, it was common for the greatest creatives to be funded by the aristocracy to purse their art, which meant they were free to express themselves without the burden of survival. Just think of the great artists, sculptors, architects, writers, poets, or composers we know today who came through that time? Of course, not every creative talent attracted sponsorship, but it was a critical part of society for thousands of years.

And then, in the last century or so, this idea of supporting great talents started to dissipate, with many of those who’ve left a powerful creative legacy not having the benefit of “sponsorship” in the same way. There was more struggle to survive, as evidenced in Pablo Picasso’s story long before he became famous, which we uncovered at his museum in Barcelona.

Pablo Picasso Museum Barcelona

With that said, a huge part of creative expression does come from the pain of life, so we cannot discount struggle and its positive impact on creative output either. Much of the greatest art and music would not have been created without the pain that inspired it, right? Heart ache, loss, and more.

And then we move forward to today, and sometimes it feels like all you need to do to become famous is have a big arse, big mouth and a small brain…. Heck, with these qualities you can be successful in politics today too…. Sorry, true all too often these days…

Let’s refocus and value the power of true creativity again

I believe all of society misses out when we forget to support the creative talent amongst us, as well as when we do not nurture the creative talent that exists in all of us.

Now, more than ever, with creativity one of the top skills of the future, it is time we really thought about what it means and how we can create space for the gifted to really flourish – i.e. universal basic income would be a great starting place.

But it’s not just about the gifted, we need to emphasize creative skills in balance with all other skills too. We are definitely a world out of balance in many ways.

Simply put, creatives tend to be more visionary. They see the future, speak to the present and link it all to the past.

The way creatives express themselves comes in many many forms, and we need to cherish it again. Because it is these talents and this way of thinking, that can solve the biggest problems in the world, but more importantly, we need this talent in partnership with the greatest logical thinkers in the world too.

The greatest challenge is helping logical thinkers not be overwhelmed by creatives, because let’s be honest, creatives can be a bit weird. I know. I grew up in a family of them.

A small example of what I’m talking about

I won’t talk to the struggles of my family on their creative paths, I can only talk to my own. I, of course, do not claim the lofty heights of a visionary, but I think back over my career – with various examples of creativity – and the content marketing path is an easy reference to make my point.

I was banging on about it for such a long time, that by the time everyone else started joining in, I was sick of talking about it! Really sick of it.

Content marketing was common sense to me, as a path to build business in the digital age. With customers completely distracted, I just couldn’t understand why people couldn’t see what I was seeing.

Businesses, governments, the media, and more, have all lost control of the information cycle for the first time in civilized human history. Not only that, trust is gone. The customer is gone. Loyalty is gone. Everything continues to change rapidly, and in my conversations with marketing professionals, more often than not, it was still business as usual. Good luck with that.

It felt like I spent a decade looking into blank faces time after time after time, and of course, I blamed it on my self – obviously it was my lack of ability to communicate effectively.

Which of course is the problem, those blank looks kill the vision and confidence of many. It’s lethal!!

But what I learnt over these years is that it wasn’t my fault I wasn’t getting through. I was speaking with people who spoke in a different language – logic, measurement, KPIs, growth, short-term, quarters, proof, shareholder value, etc….

You can’t speak to these people about new ideas, because how can you possibly prove it’s going to work in a way that makes sense to them, if it’s never been done before?

Oh don’t get me wrong, you can find all sorts of statistics to back up your ideas – you get really good at finding ways to speak in their language – but as a starting point for a person with a creative vision, the constant drive to demonstrate value, when what you need is trust, then space to grow and build something beautiful, well, let me tell you, it’s a killer.

Thankfully I have found rare and amazing CMOs to work with who get it and give the work the space it needs to succeed. They also appreciate that sometimes you’ve just got to do it because it’s the right thing to do! Yes, that matters too!

But still so rare…

Because when you have space to flourish

You get gorgeous cities like Barcelona, where every façade of every beautiful building is different, because it was a city mandate. And because of that mandate it created competition, and because of that competition we have Gaudi, and in six years, we will have the fully completed La Sagrada Familia.

La Sagrada Familia

I mean just that? Can you imagine that idea 130 years ago? A Cathedral in Europe, inspired by nature, like nothing ever created before. It completely moved away from the traditional style of architecture used for centuries by the Catholic Church across the world, and all it needed was someone or a community to believe in it to get it started.

Imagine selling it back then or convincing someone of its value?

It will attract millions of visitors every year and generate billions of dollars in revenue.

Prove it!

I can’t!! It just will. Trust me.

Keep believing creatives

To all my creative visionary friends, do not let the logical amongst you (including family) squash your vision. Keep believing and keep striving. We need you fully expressing yourselves today.

And to my logical friends, we need you too, and we need you working with the creative visionaries in your life. I know how they speak doesn’t always make sense and I know it can’t be proven in a way that makes sense to you either.

But please, don’t shut it down. Listen. Hear. Feel. Test. Take a chance. And most importantly, when you get started, give it the space to breathe and grow, and please do not EVER use the language of scepticism. Be all-in and supportive, so you can build a success together.

I’ve watched many failures happen because everyone wasn’t truly all-in. These failures did not need to happen, but it doesn’t take much to push a new idea into failure territory.

Logic and creative together

This is the future. That is what we need. We’re facing some HUGE problems in the world and we need creative solutions mapped with logic to solve them. We need that balance back between the two.

Human beings constantly demonstrate incredible creativity when they are given the space to do so, and I encourage you to embrace it. If you don’t know how, read how Gaudi was inspired by nature to do impossible things with architecture. That’s the qualities I’m talking about. That’s how magic happens.

Naysayers never create magic. They kill it. They take away belief in ideas. They squash confidence. It’s brutal to be on the receiving end of naysayers.

Let’s get the balance back and make it possible for all of us to express ourselves and work together to create magic. That’s the world I want to live in. You too?

And for those creative friends of mine, care to share an experience where you couldn’t get your ideas heard? I’d love to hear it.

Cheers

Andrea

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