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How Refinery29's Co-Founder Powers Through Creative Roadblocks

Jade Yourth
Industry Insights

From improv to taking breaks, Piera Gelardi shares how to ignite new ideas when you need them most.

 

We've all been there. A deadline's looming, and your team just can't seem to conjure up a good idea. Nothing's flowing, brainstorms run flat, and you're all staring at a blank screen willing something to come forward. You've fallen into a creative rut

Innovation is the key foundation for a company's success. You need big ideas and out-of-the-box thinking to stay one step ahead. When you rely on creativity to pay the bills, it's concerning when you can't seem to ignite that energy that was once there.

 

For Piera Gelardi, co-founder and executive creative director of Refinery29, continually churning out engaging content is crucial for her business. Gelardi and her team must keep innovating, inspiring, and producing to stay relevant.

"It's really important I understand how to create the conditions for my own creativity, but even more important, how to create them for my team," said Gelardi. 

Here are her five strategies for overcoming those innovative roadblocks and jump-starting new ideas. 

1. Be vulnerable.

One of the reasons innovation may be falling flat may come down to your culture. When employees don't feel supported, they become afraid to share ideas. It's so important to empower your staff so that they feel confident to speak up without judgment.

"I am a firm believer that the greatest creative work is accomplished when you allow yourself to be vulnerable," said Gelardi. "[You have to be] open to new ideas, and focus on welcoming new points of view."

2. Bring in outside help.

Sometimes all it takes is an outsider to help those creative juices flow. When you work day in and day out with the same people, it's easy to fall into a groove. A new perspective can bring that much-needed energy into the group. 

"We bring in outside speakers and have an education stipend for employees," Gelardi said. "Both help our team keep learning, growing, and having new inputs for their creativity."

3. Do improv. 

Many of us think of our best ideas when we're relaxed and at ease. Otherwise, stress and anxiety can keep innovation at bay. 

 

"I start brainstorms with improv warm-ups so that people let their guard down," Gelardi said. "Play creates trust and reduces stress, so I always try to introduce humor into any creative setting." Try these improv exercises at your creative meeting and see if it makes a difference in fostering new ideas.

4. Involve everyone.

The best ideas can come from those you least expect. Don't let titles or departments stop you from tapping into untouched resources. From the receptionist to human resources, when you're in need of new ideas, invite everyone to chime in. 

Gelardi likes to brainstorm with people across all departments and levels, which has resulted in some amazing ideas for her team. 

5. Take a break. 

"Often, we put so much pressure on ourselves to be inspired right now, and that's not always realistic," Gelardi said. "Sometimes, the best solution is to just step away and let it come to you naturally."

If time isn't pressing, sleep on it. Take a break from the problem for a few days and come back to it. Sometimes all you need is a good night's sleep to achieve a new perspective.