Stop Talking And Start Thinking About Science

The idea that creativity and science are more powerful together than apart is not new. Future-facing science faculties are employing design-thinking; schools are teaching STEAM, not STEM (with the ‘a’ denoting art), and the concept of a separate left and right brain is slowly but surely being eradicated.

As Simon Shaw, CCO of H+K, lamented at the H+K Creativity+Science conference this week, marketers need to be on board with this new, interconnected concept. With the democratisation of tech, knowledge and making, understanding the power of merging creativity and science should be a priority for businesses that want to stay ahead of the curve.

The conference showcased some impressive, inspiring people – from magician DMC showing off both the power and limited capability of the mind through magic, to musician Beattie Wolfe sharing her experience merging technology and sound.

But for a day which promised to show off the power of merging science and creativity, it fell far short. Aside from Dr Caitriona Jackman, who provided insights into how to problem-solve like a physicist, with some cracking examples of planetary research mixed in, there wasn’t actually any science.

Surely we’ve reached a point – after 30 years of SXSW, 25 years of the internet and 2 years of Cannes Lions Innovation – that we can distinguish between the utilisation of data and technology, and actually doing science?

It’s not that H+K are guilty of putting on a misinformed conference, or that they failed to get good speakers; the vibe of the day was of inspiration and different ideas for sure. But as an industry, we really have missed the point when it comes to finding the sweet spot in combining creativity and science.

Science is about asking questions, challenging any proposed answers, constantly being self-correcting, and – above all – being testable. Science is not an output, it’s a way of thinking.

When marketers refer to science, we are most likely referring to analysing data or using technology to do things we’ve not been able to before. Sometimes we’re referring to behavioural economics, but when we do, we tend to limit the conversation to the simple takeaways we can use to nudge our next customer towards a purchase.

If we really want to make the most of science, we should be encouraging our industry to take a new approach to thought. We should be teaching deep, rational, critical thinking. We should be employing first-principle methods whenever an insight is set before us. We should be ferociously curious about every project put to us.

For the most part, we aren’t asking deep questions about the world around us, we aren’t asking ‘why’ for every brief handed to us, we aren’t getting to grips with what the real problems are which we are trying to solve through marketing.

It’s not possible to always take the pure science route, but if conferences and thought leadership and new business pitches aim to showcase what we’re aspiring to do as a best-case-scenario, we are namedropping ‘science’ way more than we are employing it.

H+K are right in that the power of creativity merged with science can be a really powerful combination – not just for the marketing industry, but for solving problems on a broader scale too. But if we are to really capitalise on this concept, we must start being much more critical, asking more questions, and appreciating that our ‘truths’ can at any point suddenly, and simply, be not so true after all.

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