intro

 The
gameplan a

guide to
creativity

When unleashed and cultivated, creativity can propel us to do great things.

From the first step into a sports stadium to the first footsteps on the moon, creativity has always been the lifeblood of humankind. It empowers us to rise to a challenge, defy the odds, and express ourselves in ways that would otherwise be impossible.

The definition of creativity

In a competitive landscape, be it sport or business, creativity is the ability to conceive original, meaningful, and valuable ideas that shake the foundations of convention, tradition, and 'The way we've always done it' mindset.

In the workplace, creativity is a highly sought-after, even prized virtue. But creativity in itself is also deeply rewarding. We all know the rush of bringing an idea to life, and, on the flipside, how frustrating it is to have it rejected and stopped in its tracks. Setbacks, however, are necessary for creative growth and resilience, and getting dirty is part of the game.

To create is to be human

Creativity is a powerful form of self-expression, embodying the essence of what it is to be human. The word that matters most is 'create'; whenever we make something or do something, we let loose our creativity. And the best part: Creators reside in every field, in every domain, in every country around the world.

Uncover your inner creator by taking a stroll through the stories below on creative mindset, creative spaces, and creative outcomes.

Discover how creativity empowers us to rise to a challenge.

1.0 Creative Mindset

Cultivating
a

Creative
Mindset

Creativity is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. Three stories on the importance of a collective creative mindset.

Creativity manifests on the road less traveled, and the people who dare to venture onto it are the people we celebrate. It’s in the hearts and minds of athletes who dedicate their lives to creating better versions of themselves. They’re inspired by the transformative power of sport and we, in turn, are inspired by them.

We’re all born with creative potential. From the womb, we approach life with boundless curiosity. Each day we wake up and make the decision to look at the challenges that lie ahead through a prism of possibilities – or we just press repeat.

Creativity is a state of mind

If you love watching your favorite movie scene over and over again, you can stop reading. We’re talking to the creators, the difference makers, the doers. People who understand that the world is constantly changing. People who follow their inborn desire to play a part in this process – and start each day excited about the new.

The ‘lone creative genius’ represents the thinking of yesteryear. Today, in teams and businesses across the world, it’s recognized that no one person holds all the pieces of the puzzle, that creativity needs to be nurtured and supported throughout organizations. So, we connect and collaborate by offering up our own ideas and building on those of others.

Here’s some food for thought on how to spark and cultivate creative mindsets in your team with insights from members of the adidas design community.

What Makes a Creator

Creator culture is rising, not only inside the adidas walls, but also outside in the world. These five guiding principles help promote creativity within an organization.

by Paul Gaudio, adidas Global Creative Director

“Creativity is about never resting, about always pushing ourselves. It’s about challenging the status quo – even challenging the status quo we’ve created for ourselves – then challenging each other. It’s about creative friction; rubbing up against others and igniting sparks.

This creator mindset doesn’t thrive in traditional hierarchies. Creative leadership comes from everywhere and everyone. It comes from the groundswell; the people and the community. It has to, because creators require a space where they can express themselves, chase their ideas and their dreams.

Creators are defined by a set of principles: First, creators ask questions. Creativity is not about always having the answers but about having the right questions. Second, creators love to create. It’s one thing to have ideas but another to bring them to life. Execution is at the core of creativity. Otherwise, what good is it?

Creators are never alone. Anyone can have a great idea, but that idea will get stronger if you let other people carry it forward. So, always share your idea, but remember that creators never follow. They run their own race by writing the rules that suit them.

Finally, creators are a work in progress, and that’s one of our greatest strengths. Every day we come to work and we get to start again. Creators are never finished – and that’s what makes it exciting.”

Why Creators Live on an Introvert-Extrovert Spectrum

Sport, culture, and creativity are constantly evolving. The world needs diverse creators who see opportunities, not obstacles.

by Mark Miner, Creative Director, adidas Brooklyn Creator Farm

“Identifying my creative personality is an ongoing evolution. It’s dynamic rather than static – more of a journey than a destination.

If there is such a thing as an ‘introvert-extrovert continuum’, I find myself being more introverted at some points and more extroverted at others – depending on my environment.

As creatives, we’re focused on the design realities of today and dream about the design possibilities of tomorrow. Sport, culture, and the creative climate are constantly in a state of flux, and these changes call for different types of creative personalities to come to the fore. Being able to play on both sides of the spectrum has proven to be a definite advantage.

Perhaps more important than any introvert-extrovert distinction is a lesson my basketball coach taught me in my youth. He said, “Hustle beats talent if talent doesn’t hustle.” By ‘hustle’, my coach was referring to dedication, commitment, passion, and fearlessness. Crucially, hustlers come in all different shapes, sizes, and personalities.

To be a creative force in sport, a collective mindset is the gold standard. At the Farm, we believe that to prescribe the parameters of this mindset is to limit its potential. Our dedicated space, which hosts designers and creatives from all over the globe, organically leads to them defining what it means to have a collective creative mindset and, ultimately, adopting it wholeheartedly to win the game.”

How Collaboration Promotes Creativity

Creative collaboration starts with an open mind. The biggest creative breakthroughs happen when you join forces with trusted colleagues and communities.

by Casey Schumacher, Senior Designer, adidas Women’s Advanced Creation

“Open-mindedness is critical to the creative design process. It provides a safe haven for creatives to exchange original ideas with optimism and without judgment.

In the work space, it’s important to think about ways to ‘reform the norm’. Thankfully, as part of the Advanced Creation team at adidas, I’m surrounded by strong, confident, innovative ‘What if?’ women who make the seemingly impossible possible.

The most incredible projects I’ve worked on involved the collaboration of people who invested time and energy above and beyond the scope of their job titles. They also prided themselves in the process and had fun along the way.

The athletes I’ve collaborated with have inspired me to meet some of my biggest physical challenges, such as ice climbing, snow camping, intensive yoga courses, and finishing half marathons. Mentally, this motivates me to keep things simple, worry less, and push myself further than I think is possible.

I also live in a strong ‘maker community’ where people work with their hands and have mastered a craft. I take advantage of every opportunity to expand my skill set beyond apparel design, which broadens my creative thinking and gives me the confidence to work with my hands in the adidas MakerLab.

Collaboration promotes healthy competition, keeps egos in check, focuses efforts on the end goal, and reminds us that products aren’t individually ‘owned’, but rather collectively created.”

Summary

3 Ways to Uncover Your Team’s Creative Potential

  • Lead with the creator principles: Creators ask questions, they love to create, they’re never alone, they never follow, and they’re never finished.
  • Recognize and respect all forms of creativity. Creative “hustlers” come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities.
  • Encourage collaboration to promote healthy competition, keep egos in check, and focus on the creative goal.

2.0 Creative Spaces

Making
Space
 for

Creativity

Stories from
the adidas MakerLab

How you can tap into fearless creativity in a space curated for light bulb moments.

We come into this world with an innate ability to express ourselves without hesitation. Somewhere along the way, however, we get sucked into life's routines. The good news is: we can always re-connect to the power of imagination and live up to our creative potential.

At adidas a multitude of departments from IT to Materials and Design are challenging themselves in dedicated creative spaces. Three hubs form the adidas MakerLab Network, offering everything needed to play and experiment: one at the adidas HQ in Herzogenaurach, Germany, one on the Portland campus in Oregon, and a third one in the Brooklyn Farm Studio in New York. Each space is packed with tools, workbenches, workshop schedules, and a welcoming staff empowering people to deconstruct their preconceptions and inhibitions.

Connect, share, learn

The 'network' aspect of these creative spaces comes to life when two people connect in the MakerLab, collaborate, learn from each other, and pass their experience on to another person. From there, it's a ripple effect until a whole community of creators, artists, and thinkers are igniting new dialogues The meaning of the network continues through external partnerships developed with ateliers, studios, universities, artists, crafters, and experts.

Since the opening of the MakerLab in Germany in October 2016, the space has empowered the company in many ways. Here are three experiences through employee lenses.

Where Ad-Hoc Collaboration Comes to Life

MakerLab is a unique and potent melting pot full of ideas and imagination - powered by the creativity of each visitor.

by Federica Tedeschi, Senior Material Designer, adidas Brand Creative Direction

“When I first came into the MakerLab, I fell in love! It was wonderful having a space full of materials and machines ready for everyone to use. But what makes it truly special is the people.

As a material designer, making is an important part of how I ideate. The MakerLab's importance in my work has grown considerably. Initially I was just excited to have a place to work with my hands and create something tangible to push my work forward. But I've gotten much more out of it.

One moment has stuck with me: I was working with someone who had a totally different background and thus brought a fresh pair of eyes to the project. Immediately, she discovered a new way to approach the concept I was working on. The most knowledgeable person doesn't necessarily have all the right answers.

The best part has been the cross-pollination of knowledge and skills, which happens organically. MakerLab brings together people from all areas and disciplines; you never know who will be working next to you and how your ideas will meld together.”

Why Crafting With Your Hands Is Good for Creativity

Even the most seasoned creator can surprise himself along the way. That's the fun part of experimenting without judgment.

by Jean Khalife, Concept Creator, adidas Brooklyn Creator Farm

“I used to be a footwear designer with the Originals team where a lot of my concepts were born out of 2D sketches. Coming into the MakerLab for the first time was an eye-opener. I had a trial-by-error experience as I transitioned from illustrations to working with my hands to express my concepts. Having the MakerLab team around me to teach and support me was the key.

A physical item speaks louder than 2D sketches. In the MakerLab, it's easier to push product concepts further and visualize which direction you want to go. In this sense, designing directly in 3D is luxury. Updating the design of a concrete sample is also more effective.

I have this worn-out 10-year-old pair of Gazelles I'm a bit sentimental about as I wore them to my graduation. At the MakerLab, I decided to take off the sole unit and reconstruct the shoe by hand. I didn't go the normal route of sketching something first, it was from the get-go a tangible experience – a refreshing way for me to create something new and unexpected out of these beloved old kicks.”

How a Creative Space Is an Ocean of Opportunity

The room alone won't turn you into a creative genius. Dive in, and let the maker in you play and explore.

by Maria Fernandez, Senior Project Manager Strategy, adidas IT

“When I first stepped into the MakerLab, I felt the same thing I feel in front of the ocean: it's beautiful and full of so much potential. But I know that if I dive in I'll discover a whole other world.

I've been designing clothes as a hobby for years. When I saw the variety of machines, threads, and fabrics, I was like a kid in a candy store. But during an IT department workshop, I realized the MakerLab is for everyone, no matter their background or expertise. I saw some hesitation as we approached the tools and workbenches. The team was divided into groups and everyone went to work in creating catapults, balloons, and rockets which would be tested later.

I saw the wheels spinning in their heads as they dived into the challenge and began to solve problems. And that was my aha! moment: maybe this team is not used to constructing catapults, but they are ready to explore the challenge, work together, and develop solutions. The MakerLab space brought out the best problem-solver and maker characteristics in everyone.”

Summary

4 Secrets of an Inspiring Creative Space

  • Pack a maker space with tools, materials, workbenches, and an empowering staff.
  • Make the space open for everyone. The magic happens through ad-hoc collaboration.
  • Get dirty and craft with your hands. A physical item speaks louder than sketches.
  • A thoughtfully curated creative space brings out the best problem-solver in everyone.

3.0 Creative Outcomes

Unpacking
  the
Complex

Creative
Process

In sport and in business, creativity means taking a leap of faith. You can’t always know the outcome, so let go of control and trust the creative process.

Brace yourself for the truth: creativity has no perfect blueprint to follow. It’s less about formula, more about trial and error. While creativity is accessible to all, it’s elusive to most. We never really know when that “Aha!” moment is going to come – if ever.

We don’t always understand the creative process, but we appreciate it when we see it. In the sporting arena, creativity is built into the psyche of athletes whose self-confidence, deft skills, individual flair, and flashes of brilliance mesmerize us and electrify their game. Sometimes, they even transcend it.

From idea to innovation – but how?

In business circles, creativity sees maverick entrepreneurs and corporate executives finesse their way to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the commercial space – regularly exceeding even their own sky-high expectations.

But at the heart of creativity is the spirit of experimentation – the freedom to fail fast and often – having the faith that creative success is always one exercise away. Exactly what that success looks like is anybody’s guess. Like beauty, creativity is in the eye of the beholder.

If you’re stuck in an innovation rut, the stories below will get your creative juices flowing.

A Creative Journey Starts with a Shared Purpose

When the desired outcome is to set trends rather than follow them, a bright ‘North Star’ will guide a team through the creative process.

by Liz Callow, Senior Director, Color, Trend & Materials at adidas

“Growing up in Chicago, I played track and field, swimming, basketball, and softball. Sport helped me understand my body, respect its limits, and push past them. As a woman, sport gave me confidence to take risks, to lead from the front, be experimental, and even embrace failure.

In softball, I was a pitcher and in basketball the team captain, so I’d have to synchronize the players. I preferred team sports vs. the individual sports. Today, I manage a 75-strong creative team in North America and Europe.

Studies have shown that a diverse team helps you to win the game but, as a team, we’re only as strong as our weakest link. Each team member has a unique set of skills and abilities, much like the best sports teams. My duty as a leader is to help discover, unveil, and amplify everyone’s ‘superpowers’ so they can become the heroes of their own creative stories and explore the creative process.

Every creative journey should start with a shared purpose. As a brand, we represent athletes and creatives on the pitch, on the court, and in the street. Every one of them is impacted by macro trends, like shifts in the sociological, environmental, and political landscape. These are forces we can’t foresee or control, but they still ultimately inform our seasonal direction. Today’s creators can relate to living with uncertainty, yet are constantly adaptive while forging new paths with resilience, creativity, and possibility.

While the external factors are variable, sport – and the inspiration it provides – is our only constant at adidas. This inspiration is our ‘North Star’, our trendsetter guiding our creative journey, which is just as important as the finished product.”

Let the Creative Process Unfold Organically

When you embark on a new creative quest, you might not know where it will lead. But you’ll know the defining moment when it hits.

by James Carnes, Vice President of Strategy Creation at adidas

“Complex challenges usually call for openness and collaboration. At adidas, we refer to it as ‘Open Source’, a term we repurposed from the IT world.

Our approach to creative collaboration mirrors the start-up world in two ways. Firstly, as creatives, we’re eager to partner with experts who have a different knowledge base, experience, and point of view. Secondly, our philosophy is to ‘think big, start small, and move fast’.

One of the hallmarks of the creative process is a ‘defining moment’ – a breakthrough point in time that presents us with a proposition unlike anything we’ve witnessed in the past. This can be a resounding success or an abysmal failure. By default, any resulting product will embody the creative process by capturing the characteristics of that defining moment - aesthetically, experientially, or both.

It’s a natural human instinct to want to control outcomes in order to reduce risk but, with Open Source, we fight the temptation to dictate the creative process. Instead, we trust the process and allow it to take its natural course – wherever it takes us.

An example is our partnership with Carbon, which uses 3D printing to produce our FUTURECRAFT 4D shoes. Working with Carbon meant we followed many different procedures that we were unfamiliar with. But by working in a way we had never worked before, we created a product we had never seen before.“

A Prototype Communicates a Creative Idea

Innovation designers rely on research, ideation, prototyping, and testing to come up with the next big idea.

by Zachary Coonrod, Innovation Designer at adidas

If your ambition is to innovate, creativity is non-negotiable. As innovation designers in sport, our job is to mobilize the brand from where it sits on the sporting landscape today to the horizon it sets its sights on tomorrow.

Like many other creators, on a day-to-day basis, we need to come up with new ways to expand the creative toolbox to play with. Seasonal calendars have their limits – in terms of duration and appetite for risk – so we’re encouraged to take on ‘performance challenges’, such as ambitious product designs, which have a lower probability of success.

At adidas, we typically start our design process by having one-to-one conversations with athletes to work out their needs and understand the real-world context. Our aim is to pick holes in the current modes of thinking, so we can create new, exciting, and innovative products. Then, we run through a ‘formula’, which includes ideation, prototyping, and testing.

Like our founder before us, we’re big on prototypes. There’s no substitute for them. A prototype represents a moment in time, a communication tool that can serve a number of purposes—from conveying an idea to get buy-in from a fellow creative to being used as a prop to talk to people who don’t have specialist knowledge of the industry.

There’s no escaping making a prototype, testing it on its target market, and releasing it into the world on a soccer pitch or basketball court. It’s the ultimate creative outcome.”

Summary

5 Tips for Navigating the Creative Process

  • Experiment, and allow yourself to fail fast and often.
  • Trust the creative process and let it take its natural course.
  • Define a purpose that guides you through uncertainty towards a creative outcome.
  • Be open to partners with different knowledge, experience, and points of view.
  • Communicate a creative idea with a prototype.

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