How Passion Projects Drive Innovation

From books and how-tos to best practices and research, the inspiration and tools for innovation are seemingly everywhere, making creative disruption achievable if we just give it room and time to thrive… or so the thinking goes. The truth is that innovation isn’t just new thinking, it’s actually putting those new ideas into practice. Or, as John Maynard Keynes said, “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”

And allowing our teams the freedom to escape those old ideas and innovate new ones is a large part of the thinking behind encouraging employee passion projects goes.

Google may have made the concept famous with their (defunct in name only) 20% time rule, where employees could spend 20% of their time experimenting with their own ideas. But the concept is a lot wider than just the search giant. Many startups have utilized the idea, and of course, 3M is possibly the original pioneer of the idea that giving employees more freedom and time to pursue what they love will result in happier, more productive employees.

As creative professionals, this concept should come naturally to us, but it’s often hard to justify the luxury of a passion project. However, when you feel a certain sense of creative freedom or opportunity to pursue a project just for the sake of enjoyment, you’re more likely to be inspired, refreshed and reconnected with your work. As we’ve said before, sometimes we are judged by our amount of structured creative output, rather than our quality, which can hinder us from taking real creative risks and innovating our processes, our work and ourselves.

So don’t discount those doodles, scribbles and side projects your employees may be doing in their downtime. You never know what will spark their next successful idea, and giving them the space, encouragement and freedom to explore their creativity will foster a more supportive, rewarding environment. After all, if they feel they can be open about their experimental projects, who knows what they will share with you — and how those ideas will be actualized in the real world.


We Have A Few Changes…: 5 Tips For Giving Great Creative Feedback

Creative FeedbackWhen you work in the creative trenches every day, it’s easy to take for granted that we all speak the same industry language. But hearing vague terms like “make it bigger” or “it needs more energy” or “it doesn’t feel young” doesn’t help anyone. If you want to provide good creative feedback, there are a few things you can follow to ensure you’re giving (and getting) the most of your time. Here’s our top five tips:

  1. It Starts With The Brief. Before you give any feedback, the best way to ensure it’s going to go well for you later is to be clear on the assignment and work parameters before anyone gets started. It will give your team the specifics they need to work with, and it will make your critiquing easier later as you’ll be able to point to specifics on what is or isn’t working.
  1. Come Prepared. If you haven’t taken the time to properly review the project, how are you going to give good notes? Even people who have a great creative instinct still need time to reflect on what they want to say. Put your thoughts into notes that you can refer to and share with your team as a follow up. Just winging it is disrespectful to your team, and in the long run, if you haven’t properly reviewed the project, chances are you’re not going to be happy with the outcome, and you’ll have to go through it again, which leads us to…
  1. Be Specific. Okay, the logo just doesn’t “pop” to you, but how can you translate that to the creative? Perhaps your target audience is tween girls, and you feel the logo won’t appeal to them. Or maybe the background is too busy, and the logo is getting lost. Or  maybe you just want the logo bigger. Either way, any of those answers will give your team tangible feedback they can work with.
  1. Be Honest… But Be Kind. Yes, it’s business, but creatives often pour their hearts into their work, so even if you’re just being honest, be careful. Even if you don’t like it, acknowledge their time and effort. Perhaps it feels off because they took a big creative risk that didn’t land. Or maybe they tried a new skillset that they haven’t yet mastered. If it’s just not working, then you should be honest, but let them down easy. There’s no need to bash their work.
  1. Recognize The Positive! Who says feedback has to be all about the negative? Even if you feel a project is perfect, it can be just as important to let people know what they did right. If they know what the strongest part of their work was, then they’ll be more likely to repeat those good parts again.

Implement these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to giving thoughtful, specific and encouraging creative feedback that will empower your teams to do their best work yet.


Playing to Work, Working to Play

According to Pablo Picasso, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Even though we work in a creative industry, many of us are faced with this same issue, but the solution could live in our childhoods as well. When we were young, most of us spent a great deal of time making our own fun by engaging in unstructured imaginative play, and it turns out that all those hours on the playground might have been developing our brains as much as our time in the classroom. But as we’ve grown older, most adults are faced with a constant barrage of meetings, deadlines and the monotony of the day-to-day, which often gets in the way of us feeling like true creative beings and competes for any leftover time we might have to engage in playful activities.

Studies have shown that even under-stimulated adults can suffer from play deficiency, the same way we suffer from sleep deficiency if we don’t get our required allotment of hours every night. In fact, those grownups who do engage in consistent play have been proven to be more productive at work. According to Brian Sutton-Smith, the developmental psychologist who devoted his life’s work to studying the importance of play in both adults and children said, “The opposite of play is not work, it is depression.” Play isn’t just an activity; it is a powerful mindstate and a skill that requires commitment and challenges us to stay creative yet focused and must live in everything we do.

But what is play? According to Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of nonprofit the National Institute for Play, “Play is something done for its own sake. It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”

So, it could be a game of office foosball or trivia night, keeping playdough or some other fun, stimulating activity at your desk or even just engaging in work that feels playful. At Oishii, we’ve been lucky to have worked on several projects for children’s brands, from our rebrand of The Hub to our recent award-winning work for Sprout, which have kept us on our toes creatively and reminded us about the wonder a child’s imagination and an afternoon of unfettered playtime can hold. Those projects had budgets and deadlines and meetings, but we were able to find a sense of fun in each of them, and tap back into our younger years of unstructured play.

In the process, we’ve been able to strengthen ourselves as creatives, build better relationships with our coworkers and even relieve stress. And by engaging in our own versions of play, we can keep our minds and hearts open to new creative ideas. After all, you never know when that sense of kid-like wonder will spark your next great idea.