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.
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.
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.”