Creativity, Cannes and Cass Business School

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Claire Bridges
Claire Bridges

This is an article by Claire Bridges.

It’s a really interesting time to be working in PR.

If you’re just starting out or a few years into your career then you’re working in a thriving industry worth £12.9bn to the UK alone (PRCA 2016 PR Census).

I wonder how much of your role and the skills involved are similar to when I started out doing work experience in-house at Whitbread’s Corporate Communications department over 20 years ago?

One thing I do know is that the ability to think creatively has as much currency as ever.

But what drives us to be creative? This is a question I have been exploring whilst researching my new book about creativity in business, In Your Creative Element.

Whilst being creative in our personal lives may be something that comes easily, finding your creative mojo at work can sometimes be harder.

I personally jumped off the corporate merry-go-round as I felt unfulfilled and lacking in purpose. As motivation expert Dan Pink writes: “humans, by their nature, seek purpose – a cause greater and more enduring than themselves”.

Throughout my career (which was mainly in consumer PR with crossover into corporate and CSR) I was expected to generate and execute creative ideas.

My obsession with creativity really took hold when I had the word ‘creative’ in my job title at a 100-strong WPP-owned full service PR agency. Despite being considered ‘creative’ I quickly realised that it’s one thing to do it yourself but another thing altogether to lead others.

I worked as Creative and Insight Director for 18 months helping empower everyone from account assistants to the board to be more creatively confident.

In Your Creative Element is the handbook I wish I’d had when I was first in that role.

The book came about by accident really as I decided I wanted a change after more than 15 years at the agency sharp-end, and feeling burnt out, I left to freelance.

I studied for a Masters in innovation, creativity and leadership (the MICL) at Cass Business School to formalise my practical knowledge and consider new possibilities career-wise.

We had to make an artefact that represented our experiences in the last module. I created a Periodic Table of Creative Elements as a poster and refined that concept to create the book with 62 elements based on my studies.

So being an author is my ‘bit on the side’. My day job is running Now Go Create – a training consultancy, now its fifth year – to help individuals to be more creative day-to-day by improving skills, and help leaders to drive a culture for creativity and innovation in their business.

I’ve trained nearly 10,000 people from Vodafone to Unicef in that time and work with the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity every summer.

Finally, here are the four bits of advice I’d give the 20-year-old me:

Take more risks – particularly early in your career when you have freedom. I would’ve loved to do a stint abroad but the timing was never quite right.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask other people for help. I would have benefited from a mentor to help guide me (still would!)
  2. Question everything including your own point of view!
  3. Define success on your own terms – I went 4 days a week when I was MD and never looked back. My colleagues were incredulous but it gave me the balance I needed.

Claire Bridges book In Your Creative Element is published by Kogan Page.