Creativity in a Time We Need It Most

Ryan Berman

06 April 2020

Captain Obvious walked into a bar and said the understatement of our short decade, “Thanks to COVID-19, the world as we knew it has forever changed.” 

Usually, when I’m soapboxing about change, I’m on the record stating you don’t get a vote. Change happens whether you like it or not—either you’re driving that change forward or change is driving you. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you rather be in the front seat steering your Tesla Cybertruck than stuck clueless in the darkness of the trunk? 

While, in most cases, it takes courage to drive that change forward, our world has stumbled into the one scenario where we’ve all been hit with change we never saw coming. Hello, invisible COVID-19. So not nice to meet you. 

So now what? How do we take this newfound reality—even when we weren’t ready for it—and push forward? Because, whether we like or not, this change has happened to us. (Author’s note: Take a deep breath and read this last statement again.)

But before we address that question, perhaps there are a few short quips we all need to consider during this current, conflicting conundrum:

  • Disruption is nothing new. 
  • Challenges are nothing new. 
  • Fears are nothing new. 

As long as I can remember, almost every single time we’ve faced disruption, challenges and fear, the bold have stepped up in historic proportions and delivered with creative breakthroughs. As paralyzing as this pandemic might seem right now (which it is), I truly believe it is creativity and the ability to take action on that magic that will power us through to our next new normal. 

Regarding our pre-coronavirus version of normal, let’s take a quick second to tip our caps and give credit where credit is due. Our previous normal brought us some pretty impressive stuff that included transactional dating apps, plant-based burgers, one-click shipping and Dollar Shave Club. We ate up binge-worthy content, craft beer, 23andMe, give-one-get-one and digital voice assistants (aka Siri and Alexa). We probably could have done without things like Google+ and the ShamWow guy (Don’t know him? Really?), but our world improved with Nest, Ring, loyalty programs, white elephant gift parties and Peloton. 

So what new normals might we be forced to adopt under this current new constraint? And in the history of business, how bad have constraints truly been in forcing us to think critically about how our existing products and services might play in the future?

As a guy who has now run creative businesses for a decade and a half, I have seen enough to know two things for certain:

  • Most business leaders don’t grasp how transformational creativity can be to their bottom line, and most creatives don’t have a clue about how their special sauce can drastically impact a business. 
  • When it comes to creativity itself, I am less impressed when creative projects are showered with endless resources. You want to see true creativity in action? Make it a Houdini act: Cut my budget, limit my time, blindfold me and I’ll find ways to make it happen. 

Often the best creative ideas come when there’s constraint. Enter the reality of COVID-19; enter creativity and you. 

Layer on my 1,000-day listening tour observing some of the most courageous leaders at Amazon, Apple, Dominos, Google, Harvard, Method and Virgin Galactic and I can honestly attest that it will also take courage. One of the observations I try to bring forward in my book Return on Courage: A Business Playbook for Courageous Change is that ‘courage’ is undoubtedly a journey word. We need to stay disciplined, focused and courageous as we tinker with our creativity in the messy middle of an initiative—all this to land on something ultimately purposeful and meaningful as our hopeful destinations. 

A new normal is here. Already we’ve seen the masses get creative with how they’ve chosen to connect (Zoom), create (TikTok) and care ( Constraint in the form of social distancing is front and center, yet it will be unable to stop us from moving forward.

Leaders, now is your time to inspire your team to creatively lean into this newfound challenge. With the world on a partial timeout, really think through what this next new world needs and consider how you can courageously contribute in a meaningful, lasting way that could change the game (and your business) forever.

Ryan Berman

Ryan Berman is founder of Courageous, a creative change consultancy that has worked with Google, Snapchat, Charity: Water, Major League Baseball, Caesars Entertainment, PUMA, Subway and U.S. Ski & Snowboard. His methods have been covered in Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes and Inc. Ryan believes that in these courage-deficient times, courage is a competitive advantage waiting to be unlocked. His best-selling book, “Return on Courage: A Playbook for Courageous Change,” addresses this head-on. Ryan also has his own "courage brand" called Sock Problems, an altruistic sock company that socks different problems in the world.

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