Achieving Creative Success

How do we become a creative genius? Is anyone capable of striking an idea that leads to a creative achievement? Where do those lightening strike ideas come from and how can we have them?

According to Allen Gannett's book "The Creative Curve", there is a science behind achieving commercial success in any creative endeavor.

Recently, I heard Allen Gannett speak at a Charlotte American Marketing Association event about the Creative Curve and what it takes to achieve creative success. I devoured his book in a few days and was inspired to look at the creative process differently. Three things stood out to me the most in what it takes to become a creative genius:

Consume (x 20%)

In order to be creative or to fulfill a new goal, my idea to be successful was to constantly DO. I've been known to wake up early, work on my lunch, and go to bed late to be in an almost constant stage of producing. However, I missed a key element in those cycles.

Through Allen's research, he found that most creative artists spent three to four hours a day consuming industry-specific material. By doing this, these artists were able to develop an expert-level of understanding that helped them build ideas from a place of familiarity and what has been successful.

"No matter whether I was interviewing a painter, a chef, or a songwriter, I'd eventually hear some variations of the same story. Painters show up at numerous art exhibits. Chefs eat at cutting-edge restaurants, visit farms, and travel to food shows. Songwriters are constantly listening to music, new and old." - Allen Gannett

Build a Tribe

You need a tribe of people to push you, inspire you, challenge you, and mentor you. This has been a reoccurring topic in most things I've read about building and achieving goals.

It's important to surround yourself with the right mix of people. These are the people that challenge you and support you. Often, we rest on our comfort of being around people that think like us or approach life the same way as us instead of broadening our horizon to open up our circle to people that give us different perspectives.

Allen speaks to four distinct types of individuals to have in your creative community:

  • A Master Teacher
  • A Conflicting Collaborator
  • A Modern Muse
  • A Prominent Promoter
"As you build your own creative community, remember that surrounding yourself with a diverse set of people not only enhances society, but also enhances your own creativity." - Allen Gannett

Conception, Reduction, Curation, and Feedback

I used to think that if I'm going to put something out into the world, it has to be near perfect. I grew up with my dad saying "if you're going to do something, do it all the way." I've taken that very literal in that if I'm going to put effort into something, make it as perfect as possible. Now, I don't really believe that's what my dad meant when he said it. It's not so much about making effort for perfection, but making effort consistently and seeing something through to the end.

What I found interesting and true (especially in marketing) is the early editions of a project or new campaign are important for gathering feedback and tweaking. Often, it's easy to get caught up in our own likes and preferences that makes us forget what the customer wants and needs. It's imperative to know your audience and to listen to them.

When Allen spoke to Ben & Jerry's, they had a very defined process of researching ideas for new ice cream flavors, running them through testing and refining to get a final, profitable flavor customers would love.

"Creative iterations are critical to making great products of all types. While I don't have a cutesy acronym for this process, in every field of creators used the four steps I outlined at Ben & Jerry's:
Conception, Reduction, Curation, and Feedback." - Allen Gannett


In Allen's book he goes into depth on each of these topics and outlines four laws to achieving creative success. And as he reiterates at the end of the book, I couldn't agree more:

"Achieving your creative potential isn't for the faint of heart. If requires countless hours, days, and even years of work. But it's no longer a mystery."