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The Elements of Creativity

Claire Bridges studied Masters in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership, 2015 (MICL) and now runs her own creativity training company, Now Go Create. She has also written a book “In Your Creative Element”, which builds directly on her final project at Cass.  Claire spoke to us about her time at Cass and career to date.

by Amy Ripley (Senior Communications Officer)

Claire Bridges studied Masters in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership, 2015 (MICL) and now runs her own creativity training company, Now Go Create. She has also written a book “In Your Creative Element”, which builds directly on her final project at Cass.  Claire spoke to us about her time at Cass and career to date.

Why did you choose the MICL?

I decided to come to Cass to do the MICL to get formal training in creativity to underpin my practical knowledge with academic rigour. My background is in marketing and PR and I had worked for more than fifteen years, rising to Creative Director and MD level. It’s one thing to be creative yourself but another thing altogether to lead others.

I felt I had lots of practitioner experience, and was definitely expected to be creative in work but had no formal training; it was all just gut feel and intuition – which is how lots of creative work is done. Studying the MICL gave me confidence and credibility.

How was your time at Cass?

I loved the multidisciplinary aspect and I’d always fancied creative and scriptwriting, which we undertook at the school of Journalism. I also studied the psychology of creativity, as well as law. I started in September 2011 and I finally graduated last year in July 2015. I studied part-time and the course should be 2 years, but I had a baby in the middle, which isn’t something I could recommend!

On our induction MICL course director Dr Sara Jones told us we might need grit to get us through the ups and downs of the journey ahead – and it certainly was hard graft. She said we should expect to do a minimum of 120 hours of self-study per module and I actually spat out my tea! Grit is now one of the elements of creativity in my book.

I think I was quite unusual in my cohort because I was self-funded, whilst most others were being sponsored by their businesses. Doing the Masters was amazing and I would definitely recommend it, but it’s not to be undertaken lightly. It did impact family life as I did push myself hard but it was all worth it when I passed with a distinction.

Do you have a favourite memory?

We laughed a lot during the creation of a piece of performance theatre based on innovation (see image below). If you need an example of how the MICL pushes you out of your comfort zone, then this is it!

Also, we were introduced to the idea of a derive by Professor Clive Holtham at Cass, a really interesting and profound experience. Dérive is the French word for drift and is a creative practice of the conscious and unconscious mind, used to stimulate creative thought. I use it a lot in my own creative work.

How did the book come about?

In the last of the MICL modules we had to make an artefact that represented our time at Cass and to put on a show to present it. I created a Periodic Table of Creative Elements as a poster and refined that concept to create the book.

It is based on Mendeleev’s original periodic table, which itself was created as a way to present known and unknown elements. This struck a chord, because no matter how much you learn about creativity there is still a great deal that is unknown.

I chose the 62 elements based on my academic studies and papers from many areas including psychology and studies of creativity, and the first iteration had 400 elements! For the course I produced an absolute replica of the periodic table with 102 elements in 9 groups, but in the book (see image below) I’ve refined the concept further to 62 elements. The MICL faculty deserve a massive nod because the inspiration came from the course and opened the door to the publisher.

How long have you been a consultant for?

My last corporate role was in 2009, which was a couple of years before I started my studies. In the interim I taught people to think on their feet and to be more creative in business, individually and in organisations, and I’ve worked with some really interesting companies like Pret a Manger. I think I’ve trained nearly 10,000 people over the course of the last 7 years!

What made you change career course?

PR can be a demanding industry to work in, and after 15 or so years I was pretty burnt out. I also went through a divorce and decided it was time to do something new. In my last role as a Creative Director I learned creativity tools and techniques that I hadn’t known existed rather than relying on my gut. When I started consulting lots of people asked me to help drive the creative capabilities of their teams, so over time I came to focus on training and retrained in those skills.

What is Now Go Create?

When I started the MICL I knew that the knowledge I was learning on the course would help meet a genuine business need: how to drive creativity skills.

So I started Now Go Create – a training consultancy, now its fifth year – to help individuals to be more creative day-to-day by improving skills, and help leaders to drive a culture for creativity and innovation in their business. Practically, I apply aspects of the MICL regularly, showing Cass is not just about academic learning but the ability to apply it.

I have been lucky enough to work with the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The awards are regarded as the highest accolade in the creative industries and I work as part of their training faculty. I’m proud to be the only PR person working in their academy and I know the Masters has really helped me prove my credentials.

Where are you heading next?

I’m grappling now with the same challenges as every small business owner – how to scale. I’ve got a team of associates who deliver different aspects of the training with me now – experts in leadership, facilitation and so on – so the company is now more than just me.

To paraphrase IDEO’s David Kelly it seems that the world divides people in to creative ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, and my book, “In Your Creative Element”, is a way to get the message out that creativity is a skill that can be developed, nurtured and honed, it’s not something that just the chosen few have. The stereotypical view of a creative person is a risk-taking maverick, perhaps somewhat eccentric and larger-than-life, but it’s often just that the extroverts shout the loudest. Everyone can manifest creativity in their daily life at work, and play too.

What’s been the toughest challenge?

My challenges fall in to two worlds – before and after having a child!

One tough decision before my child was born was to leave the corporate career path I was on. It’s well paid but as said before, I felt burnt out and was struggling with finding a purpose – which seems to be a very current conversation! I began to question what it was all for and then when my personal circumstances changed too I decided to jump. That was a difficult decision and sometimes I wonder where I would be if I had stayed in the agency world – but the trade-off is the freedom of running my own business and not having to work for brands or causes I don’t believe in.

Post-child (he’s 3 now), the toughest challenge is juggling work and family life. Working for myself gives me flexibility but like all working mums it’s sometimes hard to fit it all in!

What advice would you like to go back and give to yourself?

In terms of starting your own business I would definitely recommend:

Going in to a shared workspace. Working from home I miss the camaraderie of the office and how when you work in a group of people you can bounce ideas around in a more ad-hoc way.
Don’t be afraid to ask other people for help. I’ve had a business coach for the past few years but would also like to have had a mentor to help guide me.
Have a business plan. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or rigid but you need an overall plan to work to which helps both when things go well and even more importantly when they go wrong.

Claire’s book “In Your Creative Element” is available here and you can find out more about their training courses at Now Go Create and on Twitter @nowgocreate.

This piece was originally published on the Cass Alumni Network.

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