Feeling challenged? Doh. Feeling overwhelmed? Hell, yeah.

If ever there was a time for some creative thinking, it’s now. We are all cooped up with our loved ones (who we pray we will still love when this is over). And the daily strain is a mental grind.

What we need now is to learn how to think creatively alone, or with the help of your loved ones (yup, really), or your virtual pals and colleagues. Granted, it’s not quite the same as a brainstorm in the boardroom with frisbees and jelly beans but there are many ways to creatively get around your current challenges – whether work, or life in general.

Creative thinking is about taking a fresh look, thinking of new, different, better ways to solve issues, as much as creating stand out campaigns. In Firefly’s professional world of marketers and communicators, we are always under constant pressure to come up with creative and interesting content every day; sometimes we are given exciting campaigns that spur and drive our creativity, and sometimes the challenge may be huge but the brief is less stimulating, and we get stuck.

And today, we have the added challenge of getting our creative juices flowing as we all work in isolation of each other – so now more than ever we need creative ideas to tackle the unforeseen challenges that ‘coronavirus disruption’ brings.

Luckily for you, I’ve found some great tools to help boost your creativity, amuse you and ease your day and hopefully get you back on the path to success and motivation.


Brainstorming can be a brilliant way to boost creativity. Getting ideas from your colleagues and bouncing thoughts from one person to another can really help to build ideas. However, sometimes,  it’s not possible to bring all your colleagues together physically or virtually. This is where Brainsparker comes in.

Brainsparker is a free app that helps you stretch your creative muscles without relying on a colleague. The app contains 200 cards with thought-provoking words or phrases, you simply shake your smartphone and it produces a new card. These random trigger words will help you to relate to the problem at hand and hopefully, get thinking a little more creatively.

Back to basics

It’s great that we have a selection of tools which can help us think more creatively, but sometimes we need to go back to the basics and use the tricks we heard about years ago. One brilliant technique for encouraging creative thinking and boosting productivity is mind mapping. And no, I’m not suggesting that you do some Sherlock Holmes style, internal mind palace brainstorming. It’s far simpler than that.

The key to a successful mind map is to write down every idea you have, no idea is too silly or too farfetched. In fact, the more ideas you jot down, the better.

Mind maps can be used for any thinking or learning task, whether that’s coming up with a campaign or thinking of a topic for a blog, just make sure that you have fun with creating your mind map. Choose bright colours to link your thoughts and ideas together, draw images instead of words or use some funky software to make it look exciting. For some free mind mapping software check out Coggle.

Have some fun

When you get stuck in a creative rut, it’s easy to give up. But, if you give up too quickly, you’ll never learn how to overcome your creative block. Instead, try and have some fun while thinking up some creative ideas. A great place to start is to listen to someone inspirational and motivating. TED Talks are a brilliant way to get ideas and start thinking more creatively. The slogan for these conferences is ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ and they attract some of the most innovative and creative minds on the planet. The free TED app includes hundreds of videos that can provide you with some refreshed creative inspiration and encourage you to think, dare I say it, outside of the box.

All of the videos can be downloaded to your phone and the ‘Inspire Me’ function allows you to select what kind of inspirational video you’re looking for.

It’s all child’s play

Young children are tremendously creative. They are constantly asking questions and using their imagination, primarily because they are often experiencing situations for the first time. Yes, it can be quite annoying when you have a child constantly asking you ‘why’ or ‘how’, but they have the right idea.

As we get older, we stop asking the ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ questions because we have experience, and those questions have been explained to us. But could this be affecting our imagination? Perhaps if we asked a few more questions, our content might be a little more creative.

This is where Alex Osborn’s checklist technique comes into play. This very simple exercise is essentially a list of questions that you should ask yourself before starting your work.

There are six main questions you should ask yourself before beginning any piece of creative work:

If you can answer these questions before beginning a task, you’ll likely come up with some interesting and creative answers, saving you from getting halfway through a life challenge or campaign brief and then running out of ideas.

So, there you have it — hopefully I’ve given you some simple techniques to think about if you’re ever stuck in a creative rut.

As we all adapt to a new way of working we mustn’t let our creativity suffer – if anything, we need as much creativity that we can muster to keep us in good spirits.

Meanwhile, stay well and stay safe!

As the song goes, “back to life, back to reality”.  August 2011 has been an eventful month and (social upheaval aside) repeated a long-time trend. For those working in PR and communications, August is rarely ever slow; more often than not, in our profession, August is often breathtakingly frantic. This is due to a number of factors: picking up the slack for colleagues on holiday; end of fiscal year planning cycles; pockets of unused budget being assigned to last-minute projects;  and proposals (that you submitted in the spring) finally getting sign-off for immediate implementation.

This is obviously a good thing for business, but the challenge for all communicators, whether you’re in-house or agency, is giving yourself enough thinking space to plan ahead for even busier periods. Because what’s ahead is autumn/winter, and if you work in the b2b or technology PR world, September marks the beginning of conference silly season.

For one client alone, Firefly is assisting with content for the Intel Developer Forum, IFA, Salon de la Photo and SMAU shows – a real, international event smorgasbord if there ever was one, with the events taking place in San Francisco, Berlin, Paris and Milan, respectively. And this is in addition to the big daddy of consumer technology events, CES, which rears its all-singing, all-dancing head in Vegas come January 2011.

It’s a given that content planning for major conferences should kick off months before opening day. But the need for smart planning even earlier in the process (e.g. six months of more) is becoming more critical because of dwindling attendance numbers coupled with a real need to prove event ROI. Furthermore, new UK bribery laws should get more PR teams thinking about whether old ways of drumming up journalist interest in their company’s products/services – including certain types of entertainment, freebies, etc. – are now outdated or even illegal.

Here are a few our quick tips for surviving conference silly season:

Before the event

At the event

 When it comes to conferences, planning is paramount. So get your whiteboard, dry-erase markers and excel spreadsheets fired up: it’s going to be a bumper-crop autumn.

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