Inspire a More Creative Culture: What Mastering Creativity Means in the Public Sector

by Lisa Lindgren

posted on 10-27-2016

Posted by Nicole Gibson, Regional Marketing Manager – Canada

In today’s digital environment, it’s never been easier – or more difficult – to reach people. To get through to your audience, you need to be able to cut through noise and catch the attention spans of viewers (over the millions of other bright and shiny objects on the web).

This level of marketing success differs in the public vs. private sectors. First, the methods for gaining traffic are different. Private sector companies advertise and target messaging to specific, niche markets that is tailored around the customers’ unique pains, desires and psychology—for the purposes of higher profits. The exchange is arguably simpler, as the market is narrowed down and the fulfillment requirements to satisfy the customers are more linear.

For many public sector organizations however, they need to cast a larger net in their communications efforts. Citizens may proactively seek a government website in need of completing a requirement (i.e. filling out business forms or marriage certificate). Or, they may want to update an outdated street sign, or report broken parking meters. The challenges from a marketing and UX perspective are entirely different and 1) must cater to a wide range of people of different skillsets and ages and 2) fulfill on a variety of roles and requirements the citizens depend on the government for when accessing the website.

These are unique challenges that call for a different, creative approach in marketing, design and content for the public sector: one that is citizen-centric, accessible to all groups, respectful of increasingly tightened budgets, and properly utilizes the growing technology platforms that are at our disposal to keep the user experience at a satisfactory level.

How the “Right” Kind of Creativity Can Serve Your Citizens Better – and Spark More Innovative Ideas

There are two common misconceptions about creativity that we can debunk:

  1. There are “creative people” and “uncreative people.”
  2. The more different your work looks, the more creative credit it deserves.

Creativity is becoming less about designing “pretty pictures” or simply standing out from the crowd. In the public sector, it’s about creatively using the technology and knowledge we have at our disposal to discover new ways of meeting (and exceeding) citizen needs and desires.

One of the internal struggles is: Many people often mislabel themselves as “not creative” because they can’t physically create their own vision. This can impact employee cultures and stifle creativity. But as Malcolm Gladwell said, “the visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper, and reimagines the world.” All you need is a problem to start with, followed by ideas (in your head) to solve them. No design or writing skills required; just a brain that is prepared to sit with a problem long enough to reach an effective solution. There are innovators at every phase of a creative movement.

Creativity is all about getting over mental blocks, and trying again and again. The more ideas you generate, the higher the chance of reaching a brilliant breakthrough.

One method in exercising creative energy is to encourage employees to keep a daily “bug report.” This is tracking method frequently used in business schools to get people in the habit of logging anything that bothers them in a given day. For every problem, you are required to think deeply on how to solve that problem. With every idea, you think of another layer of ideas or problems, and you keep solving from there. This builds a habit within your brain to constantly recognize problems, and immediately take action to resolve it.

Another important element of encouraging more creative ideas, is to reward them – good or bad. Give permission to your team members to push out as many ideas as possible, and before challenging a thought, acknowledge a unique element about it. Is it something you’ve never heard before? Ask questions on where the idea spawned from. What problem are they intending to solve? What technology could be out there that currently solves even a portion of this problem? Understand successful creation takes time, research and multiple iterations.

Click to get inspiration and view best practices in design across government today.

Push for Data-Driven Designs and Content – Invest in the Right Technology to Make Unbiased Decisions

The only proper judge of “right” and “wrong” when it comes to creativity is data.

There’s a lot of subjectivity in designs and content today. Loud opinions on what looks good or not has a tendency to slow processes down and discourage open, creative experimentation from employees.

A data-driven culture built upon an unbiased foundation and guidelines will encourage linearity in thought, without hindering creative freedom. This also encourages marketers to test their theories, and adapt based on behavior data. This method shines a light on the potential opportunities government employees can begin focusing on.

For example, a button may look “prettier” or more visually appealing on one place on a page, but web analytics and tracking tools may show that visitors don’t scroll down enough to click on that button. Instead, they seem to be dropping off the page quickly without clicking on any call-to-action. This may show us that a button is required higher up on that page. Or it may show us the need to elevate the quality of content. Or, the webpage may not be loading fast enough and they leave, frustrated.

Whatever the reason, it requires a deeper understanding of the visitors and what they are seeking. Then it is up to you to take that information, and test various designs and layouts to continually optimize your webpages.

The Next Step: Ensure Creative Collaboration and Efficiency Across Teams

Today, technology allows for multiple paths and approaches to deliver relevant, personalized and impactful messages that resonate with audiences.

To ensure your internal creative processes stay organized (and doesn’t get too overwhelming or chaotic), it is helpful to have one shared location on the cloud for everyone to access creative assets. This not only maintains version control, but it ensures visibility of projects to those who need it across the organization. It also speeds up each creative process significantly.

The less friction there is to complete tasks, the more creative action it will inspire. With an open and fearless culture that encourages new ideas, and the right technology to empower employees to create their visions themselves, your organization will be on track toward a more innovative culture.

Don’t forget to stop by our booth if you are at GTEC November 2 & 3 so we can talk about what creativity in the public sector means to you! Can’t make it to GTEC? Show off your creative talents by submitting your work to the 2016 Creativity in Public Sector Showcase. Details here.

Topics: Government