Insight August 22, 2016

Thinking Inside the Box: How Challenges Can Make You More Creative


Concept of idea with colorful crumpled paper

By Brandon Davis, Senior Copywriter

“No, you can’t do that.”

Often, problem-solvers (both inside and outside of advertising) hear those words and cringe. After all, agencies are hired to provide creative solutions and get noticed – so stifling that creativity is counterproductive…right?


Why “the box” matters

It’s advice that people love to throw out there: Think outside the box. 

The thing is, anyone can come up with out-there ideas. Given enough time and enough freedom, you’re bound to eventually stumble onto something good. But that’s not creativity.

Creativity is finding an idea that solves your problem. Maybe it’s an unexpected idea. Maybe not.

More importantly, creativity is realizing that if the idea doesn’t work — if it doesn’t fit “in the box” it’s probably not the best solution. In fact, if we can learn to embrace the box, we might find that limitations can push us to be better. Tim Harford gives a great example of this in his recent TED Talk.

Getting uncomfortable

The reason we hate the box is that it makes us uncomfortable. It forces us to think in ways that don’t naturally occur to us. It humbles us enough to ask for help. Put simply, it’s just harder.

But if great ideas were comfortable, they wouldn’t be great. They’d be ordinary.

That’s why our team spends so much time focusing on strategy. In advertising, a hilarious headline that doesn’t address a need is worthless. A beautiful image that doesn’t work with the messaging to offer a solution might as well be an empty page. It’s when we understand those needs, those solutions, that we can be creative.

Get in the box

So, isn’t it about time that we stopped hating the box? Even 3-year-olds know that boxes can be special. They can be spaceships. Castles. Whatever we want. So let’s stop fighting those boundaries and hop in.  See how sturdy the walls are. What it’s made of. How much room we have to stretch out.

If you can do that — really learn to love your own limitations — you can find a creative solution to any problem.