Self Doubt

My last blog series began with a personal confession: I am doubtful of my creative ability. Whether it be idea generation, writing or drawing, am I forever questioning what I produce and am rarely completely satisfied with the end results. I’ve been made strikingly aware of this lingering self-doubt throughout the MBA program as so many of my fellow students seem to be beaming with assertiveness. Yet recently, in pouring through the works of writer Daniel Pink, I found myself saying things that were a far cry from self-doubt. I learned that self-doubt can actually be a useful and surprising source of creativity. Suddenly I’m telling myself “Ya, I’m awesome!” There are, of course, some caveats to self-doubt, such as the extent to which you take it. This self-questioning practice shouldn’t be debilitating or prevent you from being able to act… That’s unhealthy, and thankfully I haven’t fallen victim to that.

The practice of self-doubt is in stark contrast to what motivational speakers have been preaching to us. Doing a quick Google search of ‘self-doubt’ not only returns self-help essays and videos, but inspirational quotes to help us banish these “dangerous” thoughts. The science and research behind self-doubt and self-questioning is quite interesting, however. In studies that have been conducted around this topic, researchers found that people who introduce self-doubt into the equation are better at coming up with creative solutions to problems. Why? Because in questioning yourself, you open up an internal dialogue (or dialogue with others), which makes you more likely to consider other options or alternatives and not settle on one of the first solutions that pops into your mind. You are skeptical about whether the solution you’ve dreamt up is the best, or even good, and you continue your search.  This quest for additional possibilities will likely yield a deeper, more insightful solution in the end.  

You might be surprised to learn that some very powerful people in this world swear by this practice. For example, Alastair Campbell, the strategist and spokesman for former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, wrote an essay on the topic. In it, he stated, “I see it as a strength, not a weakness… it is the means by which I prepare, consider other options and perspectives, strive for clarity about what can be attained and what cannot - and then, critically, stop the doubting, and act.” I find this extremely refreshing and can clearly see the application to creativity. So instead of pumping ourselves up in the mirror, engage in a little healthy self-doubt, and then ACT!

Instead of concerning ourselves with exiling those nasty thoughts of self-doubt, we should be more concerned with curbing pompous, over-confident attitudes that hamper creativity and limit brainstorming. In fact, I think we can all probably think of a number of cringe-worthy ads (like the one mentioned in my previous blog series) released in recent years that could have benefitted from a healthy dose of doubt.

Creativity Blog Series - Final Entry

Dear Diary,

Throughout my Internet travels I’ve become more aware of my own creative abilities. I’m no longer so concerned about being in the “creativity danger zone”. Dammit, I am creative! This whole blog was spurred by a snail after all….


Creativity Blog Series - Fourth Entry

Dear Diary,

My search for interesting and creative marketing content has led me to a commercial for Axe body spray that is, in my humble opinion, cringe-worthy. I’ll spare you from another photo of what that reaction looks like… Just imagine a variation on the “ugly cry” previously posted. I felt that their use of emotional marketing in this context was poorly done. Then I realized that it’s likely because I already have a negative brand association when Axe body spray comes to mind as I recall commercials of crazed women mindlessly flocking to men sporting the product. So now that Axe has tried to change their tune to more philosophical and emotional messaging, I find its effect is far from genuine. The connection is a little far fetched… unless the company were donating a portion of their proceeds to charities that support families affected by war. That being said, I recognize that I am not the intended target market. Still, I wonder how effective this approach really is.

- Lauren

Creativity Blog Series - Third Entry

Dear Diary,

This morning I came across an article in Fast Company magazine called The Rise of Sadvertising: Why Brands are Determined to Make you Cry. In it, Joe Staples, the executive creative director at Wieden+Kennedy commented on his agency’s work on P&G’s campaign with the Olympics.

“Shaving cream does not help you run fast” 

Staples goes on to admit that P&G is in no way directly related to the Olympics, but it does help the people who help Olympians. “From there you get to tell honest, emotional stories about the relationship between a child and their parent, and if you do it well it will resonate with millions of people because it is true. It will be very emotional, but for the right reasons.” This resonated with me and I completely agree. In today’s tough business world, creativity is imperative. The trick is to keep that creativity in check and always ensure that the desired message is being conveyed, and to the desired market. Its important to maintain a balance between creativity and logic, especially with respect to knowing who your target market is.

Pondering this for now... Will write more tomorrow. 

- Lauren

Creativity Blog Series - Second Entry

Dear Diary,

Today I watched a commercial about gum that brought me to tears. Normally I could brush something like this off, but in this particular instance I’m in a coffee shop with headphones in and didn’t realize just how audible my emotional response was. (No wonder people have been looking at me). I was unaware I was doing the dreaded “ugly cry”. Which looked something like this:

I thought this video really highlighted the power of storytelling and emotion in marketing. While this commercial seemed to strike a cord with me, this type of marketing is inherently risky. Ad agencies and companies need to be careful with emotional marketing—making unrealistic jumps in logic or placing too much emphasis on emotion when the connection really isn’t there. This can actually damage the way a brand is perceived.

More on this later... I need to go fix my mascara. 

- Lauren

Creativity Blog Series - First Entry

Dear Diary,

Today I feel about as energized and creative as the garden snail stuck to my patio door. Slinking around aimlessly, leaving behind a trail of debris for someone else to clean up… My live-in boyfriend is a lucky guy. I’m feeling especially under-inspired after taking a questionnaire to gauge my current level of creativity only to learn that I fall into the lowest catchment affectionately known as the “danger zone”. But “don’t worry”, it reassures, “this is no indication of your creative potential”. Well thank goodness. Admittedly, I am forever critical of my work and constantly doubting my creativity. I should give myself, and this snail, a little more credit. After all, I live on the third floor of an apartment building. So whether he climbed aboard the ‘blackbird express’ or is simply a determined mountaineer, my slimy friend is certainly pushing the envelope here. I’d like to think I’m capable of the same from time to time (not specifically scaling apartment buildings… I’ll leave that to Spiderman). On the topic of pushing boundaries, it got me thinking about how marketing is doing this today…. And so began my lengthy escapade across the wonderful world-wide web. (How’s that for alliteration!?)

Tah-tah for now!

- Lauren