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Engineering Serendipity: A Creative Agency’s Approach to Creativity

Marketing 06.08.22

With dozens of Addy creative agency awards under our belts, the team at Gigasavvy is well aware that it’s never enough to just come up with one great idea – or even ten. The only way to consistently create good brand strategy and creative marketing is to have a system in place that promotes a constant stream of new, innovative concepts. That’s because truly impactful content creation is rarely the immediate result of magical, lightning-strike ideas. It is the product of systematic exploration, experimentation, collaboration and strategic refinement.

It’s Not Luck if You Make it Happen

Thoughtful leaders understand that you can’t simply order creatives to regularly come up with innovative ideas, but you can put the conditions in place that will foster their natural emergence. In the tech sphere, this is sometimes referred to as “engineered serendipity.”

Ethan Zuckerman, a director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, defines engineered serendipity as the idea “…that we can help people come across unexpected but helpful connections at a better than random rate. And in some ways, it’s based on trying to reassess this notion of serendipitous as lucky — to think of serendipitous as smart.”

Some of the most creative companies in the world are well aware of this phenomenon. Steve Jobs famously required the bathrooms at Pixar to be centrally located away from workspaces because he wanted to ensure that random encounters would occur when people left their desks and that different departments would interact regularly. Speaking about the idea, Jobs said, “Pixar’s employees started to bump into each other. They shot the breeze. Sometimes, the chatter would yield something useful, and one of the participants would head back to her desk with a new idea.”

Many of the best ideas do come from these types of ‘happenstance’ interactions. The powerful gated reverb drumbeat sound that characterized many of the late 80s and early 90s megahits was born when Phil Collins and a sound engineer played around with the sound that was generated by the talkback microphone during a recording session.

The Power of Play

Playfulness is a growth mindset that provably promotes creative thinking. All those ping pong tables and arcade games scattered about tech company campuses actually serve important goals: to encourage play, camaraderie, and rejuvenation. Play promotes trying new things, taking on new challenges, and expanding your perspective.

Play also encourages people to explore rather than simply iterating on a predictable status quo. A study in 1967 asked subjects to imagine various purposes for an object. Those given time to play with the object came up with considerably more ideas than those who weren’t. A similar study in 2010 revealed that simply giving an experiment group a wad of playdough to play with could enhance their creative output.

Playfulness requires an acceptance and affection for the unknown, and the ability to put aside, even if just for a moment, the fear of what others might think. What may look like foolishness or wasted time can actually lay the groundwork for the type of divergent thinking that generates the most impactful ideas. In other words, play leads us down paths we might not have taken otherwise.

Sometimes those paths lead to happy accidents. In fact, a study of 1000 patents in Europe found that, in over half of them, the invention was the unexpected result of an attempt to create something else entirely. Nonstick Teflon was discovered while trying to make a new refrigerant. The first commercial plastic was made while trying to invent a substitute for ivory billiard balls. The Post-It Note, bullet proof Kevlar, dynamite, corn flakes, popsicles, lifesaving penicillin antibiotics, Velcro — and many more groundbreaking ideas — were all the result of creatively using materials differently than they were originally designed.

Balancing Creative Freedom with Real-World Constraints

In our on-demand, always-on, and digitally-tracked modern world, almost all the focus is on efficiency, measurable return on investment, and accelerating speed to market. Those are important priorities for any organization, but to do more than keep pace with the pack, companies must take added steps to differentiate themselves.

To transcend the market, organizations must develop processes that routinely refresh their creative energies and avoid the burnout that comes from the daily grind. They must work within the realities of a 24/7 media cycle while also trying things that are new. A balance must be struck to apply healthy, manageable pressure in ways that can help individual team members as well as the organization.

At the Gigasavvy creative agency, we’ve developed a process to help our team strike this balance between solving real-world business challenges and creating brand strategies and marketing campaigns which challenge the status quo. Our methodology, Solve + Create, provides a framework for identifying the critical problem our clients need to solve in order to win over their consumers. We then distill that down to a core human truth — the most important message we need to communicate in our marketing and advertising.

This provides the foundation for building brands and campaigns with the emotional weight to connect. Once we arrive at the core human truth, we can collaborate and iterate in a more impactful way, with purposeful direction. From our perspective as a creative marketing agency, we’ve seen that this approach produces results across a wide range of industries. Big, hairy audacious goals can more easily be achieved when brand strategy and content creation come together in a feedback loop, and this approach consistently delivers innovative solutions and measurable growth for our partners.

Are you looking for some new creative energy to help you stand out in a crowded marketplace? Gigasavvy can help. Get in touch today to supercharge your marketing and advertising.


Mitch Fait

Mitch Fait, Creative Director and Partner

As Creative Director and Partner at Gigasavvy, Mitch brings a passionate storytelling perspective to all creative aspects of the agency. His insatiable need to create, his thirst for life, as well as his undying, but sincere belief that anything is possible (if you work with the right people), has molded and shaped Gigasavvy’s creative philosophy.

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