Customer Experience Bites #2: The Frightening, Creative Process

(Bite-sized information or inspiration, that I have time to write, and you have time to read)

Whether you’re designing a new product, a new brand or just deciding how to refurbish the staff room,  the creative process is difficult enough for creatives, let alone non-creatives. (And as for those non-creatives that call themselves creative…)

Watching Jade and Joanna “brainstorming” in the latest episode of The Apprentice brought this home neatly: sub-team leader Jade opened by saying “There are no bad ideas; we’ll just come up with as many as we can and then I’ll have the final say”, then rejected Joanna’s opening idea (which, admittedly, she did keep repeating ad nauseam) and finally chose her own idea – hence a “healthy food kit” with alleged benefits for the “mind” was branded as “Natrofuel”.

Miraculously, due to the rival team arguably having an even worse brand (“Gourmet Crusaders”) and certainly the more incompetent pitch to the industry experts (labelled “toe-curling” by Karren Brady), Natrofuel scraped home by 12 votes to 10.

Arguably, the perennial syndrome of appalling creative decisions made by candidates on The Apprentice is not confined to the TV Boardroom. Over the years I’ve observed that “being creative” is a real challenge for organisations: where those delusional, non-creative “creatives” go in to battle with the “genuine” creatives, and those who are neither creative nor up for the challenge.

In a recent blog post, Seth Godin talks about two types of practice: the first, commonly understood, is all about doing the same thing over and over to get better at it. The second, as he says, “…is more valuable but far more rare. This is the practice of failure. Of trying on one point of view after another until you find one that works.”

I think this is one reason why people and organisations find the creative process so challenging: it’s trained into us that we can’t look weak, we can’t be wrong, we mustn’t take a risk.

My advice? Embrace the creative process, don’t be afraid of it. Surround yourself with people who are curious, open-minded, and ambitious. The last point matters: there’s nothing good about creativity for its own sake. As Steve Jobs said, “real artists ship.” In other words, ambition (to be the best, to meet a deadline, to do something exciting) is what drives creativity to go through failure, challenge and feeling uncomfortable, to produce a result that moves the organisation forward.

For inspiration, read this article about JHP Design, in Insider Trends. Once you’ve considered the “Cinderella Protocol”, how to display a banana and the “Burger Laboratory” project you may just feel like having a go – fearlessly, embracing failure, and driven by ambition.


Customer Experience isn’t simply the quality or arrangement of assets. It’s their orchestration. I help organisations orchestrate their assets so that everyone plays to their full potential. Read my ebook Managing Customer Experience in the Networked Age, or contact me to find out more.

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