3 Ways to Motivate those Damn Creatives

October 4, 2016 Chris Spann

When thinking about what motivates creatives, my mind exploded in numerous directions.    What the hell is a “creative” anyway? They are creatives! They create stuff, right? Well yes… but cooking dinner does not make you a chef. I have carefully thought of 3 critical elements to help you motivate “creative types.”


1. It begins with understanding and valuing a creative’s role.  

Before you can motivate anyone, it is imperative to understand what creatives actually deliver and their role in the business model.  

Let me tell you a quick story to set the stage: 

Everyday you wake up and prepare to go to work. What activities are part of the process of getting from your bed to the office? You take a shower, pick your clothing, style your hair.  We all do this.The question is WHY?

Image result for looking in the mirrorThe act of preparing ourselves for work is centered around presentation. Whether we want to admit it, we all care about how we are perceived by the public, by our peers. Freud describes this need as the Superego. No one wants to be as seen as lazy, sloppy or indifferent, so we get spiffy in the mornings to control how we are perceived.

Guess what? Those creatives you hired are the ones styling your company's hair and picking your company's outfit. Don’t believe me? Think of it this way:

Creatives influence how the rest of the world perceives your company. That is the essential role of the creative:  to convey messaging visually. Contrary to popular belief, creatives do not create art. They create objective-driven visuals that define your company and explain your messaging.

You wouldn’t go to work with dirty, messy hair, so why would you present that PowerPoint with mediocre graphics and terrible tables.   


2. Communicate using goals and objectives - not subjectivity.


Image result for creativesToo many times creatives are given tasks with directions that tell  them exactly what to create and how it should look. The implication here is that you, the manager, are trying to control the creative process.  You have decided what is best and they are left to implement your idea. Creatives create. Tasking creatives with “re-creating” your ideas can reduce motivation simply by removing the freedom to create.. Underneath those cool haircuts and snazzy outfits are people just like you, who have ideas and want to participate.  

Motivate creatives by communicating the goals and objectives of a project, while asking for their input. 

A good creative knows that not every idea will be used or received well. However, knowing that every idea will be received and considered brings about new ideas. Include your creatives in the decisions their work will influence. I promise you the work delivered will be outstanding.

Remember:  Creatives are experts: 


3. Stop dumbing it down -  explain in more detail.

In all industries, there are specific terms commonly used: drive engagement, key performance indicator (KPI), return on investment (ROI). Business jargon is a language in itself that we use to communicate complicated ideas in a concise way… until we get to creatives. Somehow, the general rule in speaking with creatives is to keep the explanation too simple rather than succinct.


“It needs to be fun. It needs to pop.”

The issue is using vague and subjective words to provide direction. There is a chance that you and the creative have a contrasting opinion of what is deemed “fun.”  Instead, stick to the facts:  Who are we targeting? Industry? Age? Demographics? Interests?

Something everyone must know about the creative process is this: regardless of whether you think they will understand/need the info - creatives are problem solvers who benefit from knowing  the high-level information.  A good creative knows this and will seek to pull your ideas into the light. This is about communication.  Anyone who had an enjoyable experience working with creatives and presenting their work will understand.

Spend more time with your creatives. Even if they seem a little odd, they are going to decide what your company wears tomorrow.


*Creative is a very broad term referring to the person or people in the office who handle the graphic design, web design, copywriting, video production, branding and other visual aspects of a company. Being a creative requires attention to marketing, psychology, sociology, trends, analytics and communication. No two creatives are the same. The term “creative” was not created by those individuals it describes.

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About the Author

Chris Spann

Chris Spann is a Senior Marketing Manager, brand expert, and content contributor at Perks

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