Ricky Gervais top 5 creativity tips

17Oct11

He’s known for publicly insulting the biggest names in Hollywood, for his record breaking podcasts, and for hit TV series including the Office – Ricky Gervais’ star continues to ascend. Now, amazingly, he’s here to offer his tips on creativity, social media and how to handle interviews with journalists.

In his essay in this month’s Wired, Gervais makes essential reading for PRs and, indeed, anyone involved in media relations, social media, and the wider creative market.


In it, the British funny man does an amazing u-turn on Twitter, describes his aggressive media interview technique, and offers his ideas on how to, uh, get better ideas.

I’ve extracted Gervais’ top tips on creativity for this post because, well, they’re good. Check em.

1. You’ve either got it or you don’t  

Sorry folks, but the comedy writer and performer writes that “Scientific studies of creativity have basically concluded that it can’t be taught, as it is a “facility” rather than a learned skill.”  Some will say that this makes a good case for separate creative teams in agencies, others will disagree. I’ll leave it to you to decide. However, it kind of follows that, if you believe science,  then you believe that there are people in your company who are creative and those who aren’t. Learn who’s who and capitalise on their unique ‘facilities’.

2. Be playful 

Ricky writes that “creativity is the ability to play – (and) to be able to turn that facility on and off when necessary.” If you’re not uninhibitedly playful, you’ll struggle to get in touch with your creative side. If you’re in an office environment, learn to understand why you’re creative people might not be poker face serious all the time, and why their playful nature could be one of your company’s biggest assets. Give them room – and appropriate work spaces – to be playful and create.

3. Make mistakes – and learn which ones to keep. 

There’s a quote in the essay from Scott Adams, who said said, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Unless you play around, experiment and are ready to embrace failure, you cannot be creative. In prop maker Artem’s  workshop, the company’s creative mantra is displayed on a placard: “Be ambitious fools.” Shooting for the stars whilst enjoying falls in the mud along the way is key to unlocking more ideas.  Never put a creative on the spot and expect a Eureka moment there and then – appreciate that the good ones will be generative when they need to be, as well as selective. Both parts are equally important.

4. Be childlike

Gervais quotes one of my favourite Pablo Picasso lines: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Being childlike,  feeling possessed by your fascination, as children do, embracing new concepts and being open and prepared to learn intensifies your creative expression. So give creative employees rusks and let them wear romper suits. Have Teletubbies on 24/7, yo. Maybe not – but in the grown up world of business, understand those with the ability to access and channel their inner child could make you shed loads of money. Attempting to ossify that quality into hard-nosed business could limit your company’s creative output. Learn how to manage it.

5. Stay true to your character, not your reputation

Never be worried by who other people think you are – as Gervais says,  “Character is who you really are. Only close friends really know you and that’s all that counts in the end.” Ok, if you’re a PR company making branded stories instead of art, you’re possibly highly sensitive to reputation matters. Deal with this by separating your creatives from your brand champions and audience connectors (media relations team, social media community moderators). That way, the creators can create and the connectors can connect for instance.

Cheers Ricky. Sure you didn’t intend this for PRtists but the tips seem applicable to anyone  who creates something.

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One Response to “Ricky Gervais top 5 creativity tips”

  1. 1 karen moyse

    Great stuff! K


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