By Heather DeMonte, Co-Owner, Klique Creative
Knowing when to flex and when to unflex is critical to running your own business. The "unflex" is our attempt to explain the creative process - as Stacy and I experience it - and to answer the question we are often asked, "How did you even THINK of that?" The flex comes when it's time to stand up for your work.
After years of practicing the "unflex" we wanted to describe the process (as we experience it), the benefits (as our clients experience them), and the pitfalls (that inevitably find their way in) so that you the reader can decide for yourself when to flex and when to unflex.
As for Stacy and I, how DO we design an entire brand strategy, name, story, and look for a business (multiple businesses) out of thin air that have been known to yield 70% sales growth, close million dollar deals, attract and inspire exceptional employees, result in profitable IPO's, and help make the world a better place? You might think results like that come from one big hyped-up muscle flex? On the contrary the unflex is what yields all the power. And this is how it's done.
How to Unflex
You know that moment when you land a dream project and you HAVE to nail it? But after hours of "giving your best" and "trying your hardest" you want to flatten the blank screen in front of you? Try this instead. Embrace the empty. Nothing good comes from over-trying (contrary to many parenting philosophies today). Answers can emerge from emptiness. Just look at that beautiful flower that somehow grew out of the barren cracks in an over-used, under-tended, concrete highway. The best answers sometimes come in the most unlikely places.
Open your mind to the nothingness in front of you - allow yourself to unflex your brain - and poof! Outside the bounds of analytic reason the mind opens to a solution. Why hadn't you seen it before? Probably because you were trying too hard. Your were flexing. In other words, you were applying dedicated, conscious reason to summon your "best answer" based on experience, skills, education, and smarts. While valiant this if often not the best approach. Remember Newton, who is widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time, how he unflexed under the apple tree? It was in his relaxed state he witnessed the apple fall and the Law of Gravity was born. Unflexing gives life to your dormant imagination just waiting for the analytic restraints to come off.
Benefits of the Unflex
There are countless examples of how unflexors succeed. Newton aside, many unflexed minds have changed the world. We could dedicate an entire book to this topic starting with our own experiences. All those achievements we mentioned earlier actually happened to our clients as a result of our unflexed creative process. As creative experts unflexing is an exercise Stacy and I instinctively take on when we engage in the kind of storytelling that allows us to divine tangible business tools (brand strategy, story development, messaging, and design). Those tools pack a hefty punch and garner a lot of value. But with all that vigor the "unflex" comes from an inclination to be quiet. This is the art of the unflex. The ability to quiet the mind, tap into its creative abilities and reap the resulting benefits. For Stacy and I the need to retreat into the quiet so we can unflex is strong, but by doing so our output is even stronger. Just don't stay in the quiet too long, the not-so-quiet are circling...
When to Flex Back
Everyone knows a muscle will atrophy if left in the unflexed state and the same is true with your business. There will always be "flexors", otherwise known as the not-so-quiet, waiting in the wings to take credit for your work or not pay you its worth. Remember that million dollar deal our client won on account of the crisp brand we created for them? We knew our worth and we were compensated fairly up front. That didn't happen in the quiet. That happened in the loud. The proposal writing, the educating, the competing against others, the assertion of our value. Herein lies the painful lesson of the quiet. Sometimes you need to shout. As uncomfortable as it might feel. Haul off and flex. Your business is counting on it.