I was honoured to be invited to speak at the agIdeas International Design Forum in Melbourne in May this year (2012). It was a great week filled with lots of stimulating thought and discussion, and over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing a few spots that got the audience talking.
The game of ping-pong says so much about my everyday in the world of commercial creativity. There’s thinking, doing, some fear, some fun, instinct and of course personal style. It’s these ingredients that not only make for good play, but also inspire effective work and respectful and rewarding relationships.
I have always believed good creative or design with difference is founded and informed by sharp and smart thinking. Just as a ping-pong player thinks before they act, a good designer does too. It’s about being conceptual, critical, constructive and strategic in the way in which you generate, process and build an outcome; breaking things down, questioning, making judgments, reasoning, reflecting, imagining the possibilities, having vision and having an opinion.
In the play of ping-pong the doing is about transforming the thoughts in the mind into a physical performance. In the world of creativity and ideas, the doing is about translating your thinking and ideas into action. Using your craft know-how to bring to life your thinking and ideas.
The doing is precious as it really is the point of difference in whether the idea will become a hit or miss. Poor execution can turn a great idea into something faint, flimsy and potentially ineffective. A great idea well-executed has the potential to be certain, strong and exceptionally powerful.
The doing is also more than just the execution of your thinking. The levels of your engagement in making it happen can also make a difference in the realisation and result of the play. Being up for it, ready, willing, able, and really giving it a go can turn a good idea into a great one.
Any good ping-pong player feels their way through the game. This is what I call ‘instinct’ and it is special and potentially very powerful and distinguishing.
Instinct is that ‘gut’ feeling and sixth sense which lives within us, often existing beyond reason. Within the space of creativity I define it as the way in which you connect and tune into the work and the people with who you’re working with. Over the years I’ve developed my levels of sensitivity and awareness to instinct and I’ve learnt more and more to trust it. But more importantly, I’ve learnt how to translate and articulate intuition in meaningful and valuable ways to my team and my clients.
Then there’s the sprinkle of fear, which exists in us all when we go to engage in any sort of match, whether it be the play of ping-pong or the practice of creativity.
That fear that overcomes us when that new brief lands on our desk (will I be able to crack the idea?), the fear when we’re in the throngs of the development (will we meet the deadline? Will the idea work?), the fear when we present to our peers and clients (will they like it? Understand it? Is it right?).
Fear can limit us. It can influence us to retreat, withdraw, or even give up. I experience fear everyday, but I’ve learnt to channel it. Like in ping-pong I confront my fear and get in there and do it, understanding and accepting that the return for any risk taken could amount to something. It could amount to a great idea or outcome, or a learning I take with me to another project. Fear can be a paralysing obstruction, but it can also be a powerful motivator.
Fun is self-explanatory. As a creative we should never lose sight of how lucky we are to play in the space we do. Despite what often seems like a lot of hard work, long hours and intensity, not many others get to be imaginative, playful and varied in what they professionally do, experiencing interesting sights, scenes and challenges with each new project. For me being a creative rarely feels like work, it feels effortless, exciting and enjoyable, just the way it does for any good ping-pong player.
The way in which you think, do, feel, have fun and manage fear is what makes you, you. It’s this personal style in how you do things that makes you interesting, likeable, respected and within the commercial space, sought after.
This article was first published on Moon’s blog on 7 June 2012.
Image and video copyright Linda Jukic.