In the latest live event in our Digital Sisterhood series, I spoke to my long-time friend and old colleague Nik Govier. Nik founded award-winning Communications agency Unity and then the strategic and creative advisory firm, Blurred. Nik is an expert when it comes to thinking and acting creatively at work - something that many of us find tricky in a normal situation, never mind in the midst of a global pandemic.
We talked about everything from solitude to mindset, career planning to founding a business and learn to think in new ways. It's a conversation I think people need to hear now more than ever. Here are the highlights...
“I have been blown away by the manner in which people everywhere have so naturally readjusted their lives and working patterns to fit within the current world order.” Nik Govier tells me as we chat comfortably over video; a medium that just weeks ago felt corporate but is now the much-needed norm; bringing families, friends and communities together in this time of crisis.
Nik, an expert in thinking and acting creatively at work, is talking to me about creativity in isolation. At this difficult time, it can be hard to find optimism, but Nik is finding it in what she sees as an opportunity to change the way we think and work. For most people, she says, ‘normal’ life has become incredibly regimented. “From the minute our alarm goes off to the minute we set it again in the evening, we are driven through our days by time sheets and deadlines, meetings and appointments.” Fitting free-flowing, creative thinking into designated time slots, she says, can feel like an impossible task.
Out of this crisis, Nik says, new creative opportunities can emerge. “I encourage everyone; founders, freelancers and executives, to use this time to consider what and how you could adapt to encourage more creativity at work.”
Over the past few weeks, I have found that the gift of solitude (when the children are in their Google classrooms at least!) is allowing me to reconnect with my creative self. I am finding the physical space I have from other people mentally liberating. When we’re stuck in the day-to-day, it becomes all too easy to get bogged down in the small stuff. Isolation allows us time for thought, space to create and the opportunity to get to know ourselves a little bit better.
I always remember hearing that J.K. Rowling came up with the Harry Potter character waiting for a train that was delayed. Failure, she said, meant a stripping away of the inessential. “I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me.”
Apply Rowling's advice to our situation now - yes, our lives may feel like they have been delayed or put on pause, so we need to decide what we are going to do with that time. Isolation from the influence of others is a chance to reflect and in turn, help us to find our own voice, our own thoughts, our own purpose.
However, solitude can come with challenges. If we don’t look after our mental wellbeing, we leave no space for creativity. Nik offers me the advice she subscribes to. “We should consider mindfulness as mindlessness. When we detach ourselves from our phones, computer screens, TVs and more, our best ideas can float to the surface.” For instance, Nik does some of her best thinking when she is driving, as her mind goes to a different place.
Because of the way our routines are shifting during isolation, we have an opportunity to usher this mentality in. “I personally, am finding it much easier to get into this mindset.” Nik says. “I can feel my mind opening up as I am no longer constrained by my usual routine.”
How should we be applying this creative thinking to our careers, to our companies? “This is about acting as a business - there is no room for brands in a crisis,” Nik says firmly, adding that this thinking applies to everyone, whether you’re an individual or representing a business. “Ask yourself, what can I contribute?”, she continues. “Be mindful, be sensitive, bring value to people.”
“No matter how small your act may be - buying from small businesses who are trying to pivot their offering to stay alive, volunteering with your neighbourhood or local council, or even joining something like AllBright Connect and sharing messages of positivity with other people is valuable. I love what Joe Wicks is doing, he looked at the situation and realised he could add value - by becoming the nation’s P.E. teacher. By simply seeing the bigger picture he is adding huge value to households everywhere.”
A resource Nik recommends for people and businesses looking for inspiration is the United Nations’ Global Call Out to Creatives, an initiative for designers, writers, producers and more to help amplify key messages about COVID-19 to audiences not yet reached. “If you can support any of the points listed, please do. Don’t promote your product, but help promote the message.”
The type of thinking we employ in crises can lead to a permanent change; being forced to think in a different way will lead to different perspectives. Nik recalls a phonecall she got one Friday night from a client who wanted to pull a campaign they had been working on together. “To buy some time,” she tells me, I persuaded the client to meet me on Monday morning so we could talk it through in person.”
Nik went into action mode: “That same night, I developed a brand new concept from scratch using the girlfriends I have on speed dial to soundboard the idea.” The late night paid off. “My overnight idea eventually rolled out as part of a global campaign and was far stronger and more impactful than the original idea we had pitched.” The client was thrilled. The situation forced Nik to think creatively under pressure.
Speaking to Nik has given me so many ideas about how to get in touch with my own creativity. I encourage you to join me in taking just 20 minutes each day to do something ‘creative’ and to see where you end up. These tasks don’t have to be big; look around your home, sort out the things you’ve always wanted to (your wardrobe is calling to you), keep a diary, scrapbook or voice notes on your phone of thoughts as they come to you. Mood boards or visualisation of projects or ideas can be hugely helpful and galvanising; ask yourself what you want to do with your business, your brand, your career, yourself…?
So read that book, do that course (try AllBright Academy), pick up those paints, sort out the garden, start that YouTube channel, and make use of the time you’ve gained by losing the morning commute. Think about what you like doing, but don’t normally have time to do. That is your place to be creative in this crisis.
We have launched the Digital Sisterhood to provide women everywhere with the community and support they need at the moment. Be that a safe-space to ask questions – and receive honest answers – or somewhere to find a digital event that will offer you the information, or perhaps the mindset, you need to get you through the coming days and weeks. We’re here for you so please do head to www.allbrightconnect.com to join our community.