Opinion

Creativity starts with reinterpreting the brief

Reinterpreting a brief is the only way for creatives to remain in control when presented with an idea that falls flat, writes Dave Trott

I’m not a fan of Arthur Scargill {the British trade unionist}.

But something he said really interested me.

He was talking about how he first realised he’d make a good union negotiator.

He started working in the pits at 15.

He worked with a lot of other young lads, of course they didn’t get all the rights of adult miners.

For instance at Christmas, when they’d finished their work the men were allowed to knock off early.

But the youngsters had to stay down until their shift ended.

Even if they finished their work, they weren’t allowed to knock off early like the men.

All the youngsters thought this was unfair, what was the point of staying underground once the work was done?

They agreed someone should say something to the manager.

But they were all scared stiff.

So Arthur Scargill said he’d go and talk to him.

He says he was also scared stiff.

But he went to the manager’s office and knocked on the door.

He opened it and he’d never been in a room so big, it seemed about a hundred feet from the door to the desk.

The manager, Mr Steele, was sitting there puffing on a pipe.

He looked across and said “What’s tha’ want lad?”

Arthur said “I’ve come to represent lads in pit bottom.”

Mr Steele said “Oh aye, about what?”

And Arthur explained that it was unfair that all the men were allowed to go when they’d finished their work, but the lads weren’t.

He asked if the lads could leave too.

Mr Steele said “Tha’ knows I can’t give thee permission.”

And that was the end of the meeting.

And Arthur walked out having failed in the negotiations.

But, as he was going back to the pit bottom, a thought struck him.

Mr Steele hadn’t said no.

He’d simply said he couldn’t give Arthur permission.

And a light went on for Arthur.

He hadn’t actually told Arthur that he couldn’t do it, just that he couldn’t give him permission.

And Arthur told the lads that they were leaving when their work was done, with the rest of the men.

And that’s exactly what they did.

And amazingly, no one stopped them, and they got paid in full.

And Arthur Scargill said that was the first time he understood the power of interpretation in negotiations.

That’s a creative leap.

Understanding the power of interpretation.

We all have that choice, with a brief or anything else.

Instead of interpreting it in a disempowering way we can choose to interpret it in an empowering way.

We can sink into negativity, into an interpretation that disempowers us.

Or we choose to creatively reinterpret the brief, in a way that empowers us.

That’s what the best people have always done.

Because that’s where the creativity begins.

Don’t wait for the perfect solution to land on our desk, reinterpret what we’re given.

Stop letting our minds imprison us, and start using them to set us free.

Creativity starts with reinterpreting the problem.

As Orson Welles said: “Don’t give them what they want. Give them what they never dreamed of.”

Dave Trott is a consultant, author and former ad agency creative director. This article was first published on his blog

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