Content marketing: Telling Meaningful Stories

We want structure, but creativity and stories sometimes happen in an unstructured manner

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creativity is novelty that is usefulSome of you want structure. Structure for everything. To create something new, we need to have a process. Step 1 at this time. Then Step 2. Step 3. This meeting only has a minute left. You know what I mean, right? There’s a reason for structure. Use it!

But not everything happens in a structured environment. Stories happen when they happen. Not necessarily when it’s convenient for the storyteller or brand journalist. Sometimes stories happen and we don’t realize that something worth sharing just happened. We might recognize the importance of that same story later, though.

Creativity is one that can happen with structure. Take Jim Link’s book “Idea-Links: The new creativity” . It takes a very structured look at how creativity can happen by looking at what other industries are doing  and examining how those ideas could be transferred to other areas.

I’m usually most creative in the spur of the moment; when it’s unscheduled. Though, sometimes scheduling time to just think helps, too. I suppose that’s not technically unscheduled then?

Structure and creativity: Accidental collaboration

Some of the best ideas and projects happen outside a structure – (i.e.: meetings, official brainstorming, etc.).

For example, I was once researching and writing a script and ran into somebody else. I asked an off-handed question related to what I was working on. That led to an impromptu exchange of ideas.

It wasn’t even an <em>exchange</em> of ideas. It was more like a “building on the other person’s ideas.”

“Here’s my idea.”
“How about this…”
“And then we could do this…”
“And then this…”
“Is that possible?”
“Maybe not to that extent, but this would be…”
“Let me sketch that out.”
“See ya.”

Later the phone rings.
“I just thought of something else… what if…”
“That would work with what I just thought of…”

Then somebody else stepped in:
“Hey, did I hear you guys talk about…”
“What do you think if we do…”

You get the idea. When you mix people with varying backgrounds, in an open environment that allows time for exchanges like this, results can happen. Authentic stories are told and told in new and creative ways.

By the way, doing this, is extremely rewarding and a lot of fun.

Structure and creativity: The meeting after the meeting

A related topic to this is when things happen after “scheduled” collaborations/interviews/etc.

The scheduled event is over and another meeting, related to the first meeting, happens in the hallway, for example.

First of, years ago when I worked as a newspaper reporter during interviews:

I would interview a person. It’s an OFFICIAL interview, right? I would get some good information. Then the interview is over. You shake hands. “Thanks for the interview” and then walk out the building together to get to your respective cars.

And then, the conversation returns to the topic discussed in the interview (what else would you talk about, right?) and the person shares something else essential to the story. If it’s essential why wasn’t it shared earlier?

I’ve also seen this happening during other non-journalistic projects:

Here’s the scheduled meeting to collaborate. Please submit Idea A, now B in 10 seconds and so forth. Sorry, out of time. What are the action steps? There’s some progress. We might even call it a success … until the meeting is over and two or three people just chat about things and come up with the best idea, yet. Fingers crossed that they spot the idea and figure out a way to bring it back to the entire project team.

Sometimes people are much more involved in those “secondary” ideas. Think of the reporter heading back into the newsroom. He is talking about the “after-the-interview fact.” It seems essential. And often is. Same with that second example: That group is now talking about the “secondary” idea. It’s what got them excited, maybe even pumped about the project.

From there, take that momentum  and fascination to make sure the idea happens.

Structure and creativity: Who works at 3 a.m.?

A video editor once said “I edit an entire piece at 3 in the morning while in bed.”

I do that, too. You probably do, too, if you edit, write, put together presentations or other such things.

One time, I was pushing a presentation time and the PowerPoint hadn’t been created, yet. But really, it was done – in my head. I just hadn’t put it on the slides.

I go back years ago, when a longtime newspaper person told me that so and so would leave the newsroom, write the story in his head, come back inside and write the story.

Structure and creativity: Conclusion

So, why do these things happen? I’m guessing it has to do with that people are more relaxed. You are past the “I need to answer that now” part and can now just talk (or collaborate). There’s time to think!

Now, how can you set up these kind of sessions?

  • Set up shorter scheduled meetings and allow time after.
  • No scheduled meetings and just allow and encourage open collaboration?
  • Realize that ideas can just happen. Kind of like stories. They happen. Document and share them!

Sometimes, you need scheduled events. For example, when ideas aren’t just happening, a process like the one discussed in Mr. Link’s book can be implemented.

The same process to be creative may not work for everyone. The key is find what works for each person and a team. 

Disclaimers: The information provided in articles is for informational purposes only and not personalized advice. It's accurate to the best of my knowledge at the time it's published. Enjoy and best of luck telling the best stories in your organization and life!

Christoph Trappe

Hello and thanks for stopping by. I’m Christoph Trappe.

I’ve written two books, speak at conferences around the globe and blog frequently on here. I love sharing my stories and helping organizations share theirs.

If you need help, just visit the Contact Me page in the navigation and drop me a note. I’m always happy to chat!

Thanks for reading!

– Christoph

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