contentGuest Post by Lukas Treu

Creating content that someone actually wants to read is extremely difficult these days. Everyone is surrounded by “noise” that they don’t have time to parse through, our attention spans are shrinking by the day and far too often, the content we do consume isn’t even truly novel.

Creativity is desired, yet is in short supply.

As professional communicators, we find that those comprising our target audience are at best overwhelmed and at worst wholly disinterested. And frankly, it’s hard to blame them.

That said, what if I told you that the inspiration you need to stand out and resonate with your target audience could be sitting right in front of you?

I wouldn’t blame you for being skeptical … it’s easy to feel jaded. But I invite you to consider a somewhat counterintuitive concept for a moment:

The key to differentiation isn’t a matter of discovering something everyone else overlooked. Rather, true inspiration is often hidden in plain sight.

As content creators, we sometimes need only go back to “the basics” to become more advanced in our craft. Just not our basics.

Here’s what I mean. Recently, I came across a blog post by a fellow named John Maeda in which he showcased the wide variety of Google image results one finds when searching for “design thinking.” If you ever studied as a designer, the concept of design thinking is likely nothing new. It’s a well-understood guiding principle of the trade that, with a small degree of variance around terminology, looks like this:  


To those in the design community, this concept is the epitome of basic. This image actually originates from an article by the Nielson Normal Group called “Design Thinking 101,” which even begins by saying “It is a common misconception that design thinking is new.”

I, however, am not a designer, and the theory behind design thinking is a relatively new concept to me. I had never heard of it before skimming through the blog post. And yet …

The more I read, the more I felt a sense of familiarity. And if you take a look at the steps comprising design theory, I bet you will, too. Could it be that whether we realized it or not, we’ve been using this foreign concept of “design thinking” to create content for the brands we represent every day? After all, as communication professionals …

  • We seek to empathize with our messages’ recipients and define their pain points when we create anything worth consuming. “Know your audience!” is a rallying cry for the modern marketer, and our failures can often be traced back to crafting campaigns that were more about what we wanted than what our audience needed.
  • Once we’ve defined the problem we’re trying to solve, we ideate around useful/engaging approaches to address that problem. We generate ideas, then we experiment (or prototype) to find out what looks like it will resonate best. We refine our concepts and ideally end up with more engaging content.
  • We then pilot our concepts, testing to see what works. We gather data points and recipient feedback to refine our approach. Finally, we implement the plan we’ve created, sending our content out the door and on to our well-understood audience.

If you read through these examples and think, “I don’t do all those things when I develop new content,” I hear you. Honestly, I’d be lying if I said I always hit every step in this process. Yet I still find it interesting (and a bit invigorating) to see just how closely a “foreign concept” like design thinking turns out to be something I could stand to reference every day.

It isn’t hard to see how following this approach could easily enhance our efforts to deliver content that piques and holds the interest of its intended audience.

Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we’ll even create value beyond that audience. For instance, John Maeda’s design thinking blog post wasn’t written for me. And it probably wasn’t written for you. This blogger was simply musing about the variance he encountered in depictions of a model he likely figured all his readers understood. Yet I would submit that you and I can take as much away from this post as anyone if we simply recognize this:

Sometimes something that seems basic to one person can bring about an entirely new perspective in someone else.

An observation need not be overly erudite to evoke an epiphany, and a concept need not be groundbreaking to invigorate the newly initiated. For instance, have you ever felt energized upon hearing a speaker artfully distill something you already knew, but had never heard encapsulated so well? Or have you ever heard an expert explain something that they found rudimental, but you found fascinating? “Basic” is something we too often take for granted, overlooking opportunities both to inspire and to be inspired.

As we focus this month on “creativity in communication” here on Waxing UnLyrical, my challenge to you is this: Consider what non-traditional channel you could turn to today for insights that might be obvious to someone else, but inspiring to you. And for extra credit: Consider what you may be brushing off as “basic” that which might inspire someone else. Keep an open mind, and approach each day knowing that the key to being truly advanced means never underestimating the power of the basics.

Lukas TreuLukas Treu is a content strategist and business writer who believes the answer to many of the world’s problems lies in better communication. He consults with and writes for clients at akhia communications, a business integration agency in Northeast Ohio, and via his freelance business, The Mad Dash: Writing, Wordsmithing and Semantic Services. Connect with Lukas and find his latest musings at Twitter at @LTreu.