I have been in the marketing and advertising business since 1992. That’s 28 years for those of you keeping score at home. For all of those years, I have been on the creative side of things. First, I was a copywriter, then a creative director, and now an executive creative director.

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In all my years of making things, helping others make things, and overseeing the people who make things, we did all of that a certain way. It went something like this:

A client gives us an assignment.

Someone writes a brief.

Someone presents the brief to the creative team. (Usually, creative teams consist of a copywriter and an art director. Sometimes a strategist was involved, sometimes a technologist. You get the idea.)

Those people then go off and do what we in the creative biz call “concepting.” That’s getting into a room and talking about the problem, going over the brief, and creating the concepts that solve the problem (hence the term: concepting). It involved whiteboards and large pads of paper, sticky notes, and face-to-face talking/arguing/crying, etc. Pretty dramatic if you ask me.

After coming up with a few killer ideas, those creative folks present their ideas back to the internal team, the ideas are refined, and then put into a presentation for the client.

Then, they are presented, the client falls all over themselves with gratitude, approving one of the concepts on the spot!

Cue the corks popping and the concept-approved toast.*

*It rarely happens quite this way, but let’s go with it for now.

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Forever we did it that way. On big projects and small, that was how creatives created stuff. And it worked. Creative people all over the world thought up a LOT of killer ideas using this method for a very long time.

But not this year. Starting last March, there were no conference rooms to sequester our creative selves in; there were no off-site concepting sessions at restaurants and bars; no whiteboards, no sticky notes, no war rooms. Frankly, there was no face-to-face anything.

The way we usually did things—our certain way—suddenly became a lot more uncertain.

And we worried, fretted, and pushed back. That’s human nature there. You see, the process we all knew worked well wasn’t able to be used during these unprecedented times.

So, we worried, we fretted, and we despaired.

But little by little, we started to find a new way of doing things. We Zoomed (God how we Zoomed). We used digital whiteboards and other digital tools that we found to help us generate ideas in real time, together, collaboratively. We FaceTimed, we Slacked, we even old-fashioned called each other. And you know what?

It worked.

The certain way we always did things wasn’t able to happen in 2020, so we did what we always do—we figured it out. And I learned something pretty big along the way. We learned we could do this. We could make shit happen and collaborate. We could come up with amazing solutions to wicked problems, no matter what.

Going into 2020, we thought things had to be a certain way to be productive, creative, and collaborative. But we were wrong. They don’t have to be a certain way to be successful. There are lots of ways things—great things—can get done. You simply need to be open to the possibilities.

So, in the spirit of problem-solving and creativity and moving into 2021 with vim and vigor, I say—fight the urge to do things the same way you did them yesterday. Fight the urge to lament that things aren’t “back to normal.” Fight the urge to pine for the way things used to be.

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And most of all, fight the fear that your last good idea was your last good idea. It’s not. There are way more in you. Let them out this year.

Now go. Come up with something amazing.

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