The bad stereotype that creative people work on their own schedules, are lazy and shrug off deadlines can scare businesspeople away.

They see working with creatives as a confusing challenge or even worse, a necessary evil.

Little do they know that creativity should have a structured process. From the spark of an idea during a brainstorming session, an idea should quickly travel to documents that involve company experts.

This flow applies to any creative entity, whether you’re finding new and better ways to manage your projects or unearthing new creative concepts for your next experiential marketing campaign.

Foster a Culture of Creativity

Creative ideas can come from every department and level within your company. The true beauty of creativity stems from the way it grows from the minds of different people.

Ron Meyer, who is currently the vice chairman of NBCUniversal, regularly asks people to contact him with any ideas. “I want to hear about them,” he says. “I want to understand them, and I want to support them.”

When he took over at Universal Studios, I was an employee there, and he invited us to reach out.

I sent him an idea that suggested Universal Studios should ‘own’ Halloween. I gave him three ideas for how to do it. The next day, he called me.

“First of all, I just want to thank you for taking me up on my invitation,” he said. “Secondly, this is brilliant, and we do need to ‘own’ Halloween. Can you help get this started?”

For the next few years, I worked on bringing Halloween brands and events to life at Universal Studios.

NBCUniversal isn’t the only company supporting the creative process. Google has its famous 20% policy. For one day a week, employees can work on their own projects, whether they’re related to Google or not.

Google Maps and Gmail are both products of the 20% policy. ​

Find the approach that works best for your company, empower employees to voice their ideas, and reap the rewards.

Now, the question becomes “What is the next step to take with this creativity?” And that’s where the three D’s come into play.

The 3 Ds

To add structure to creativity, you must address three critical components to see whether the outcome is viable. Get the three Ds in place and everything else will follow.

1) Dollars: costs, revenue, and profit

It’s important to assess the dollars it will take to bring a great idea to life and whether the ROI is worth it.

Business is inherently based on the concept of ‘getting things done’, so action-oriented, quantifiable results are critical to garner executive buy-in.

If you can put a pro forma around your idea that makes good business sense, you’re that much closer to brining your ideas to life. 

2) Dates: time and place

When faced with a new idea, consider the time it will take to get it done. Then work backward to consider milestones and deadlines each team needs to hit to keep the project on track.

Get the heads of operation, engineering, research, and accounting on the same page so the conceptual dollars and dates make sense. Every department or team leader can add expertise to the project. 

Timing is everything, so don’t be afraid to reel in your creative team and lean on your internal experts to get realistic dates on the board.

3) Deliverables: short and long term 

Determining the deliverables of an idea can be the hardest part. It’s not just the end product deliverables you have to consider, but also the internal deliverables required to keep the project moving forward. 

You might need to communicate the idea with drawings first. Storyboards are just paper and pencil and are cheap to produce.

Engineers or technicians may need to add their expertise to communicate the technical deliverables clearly. For this stage, you need an excellent project manager to ensure all moving parts are accounted for and to check in with teams to keep everyone on schedule.

Creativity exists in every employee. Bringing your organization’s best creative ideas to the surface is half the battle, but structure is required to bring ideas to life.

Use the three Ds as a way to focus on creativity in your organization. You’ll discover that creativity doesn’t have to be a challenge and that it very well may be your salvation.