UCL Alumni


Get daringly creative with UCL Connect and Jason Bevan

15 December 2021

In a recent UCL Connect talk, alumnus Jason Bevan delved into how we can, and must, harness our creative skills to boost our career development in the age of AI and automation.

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Creativity has long been considered an effective way to improve your mental health. But have you considered creativity as being one of the most valuable and critical skills to have in your professional toolbox? Getting creative in a workplace can fuel innovation, bring teams together and ensure you thrive in your career.

However, so many of us get stuck in our repetitive routines and find little time to explore ideas. Getting through all the day-to-day stuff and staying in the ‘operational’ 13% of our brain stops us from accessing our creativity,” says Jason Bevan (UCL Geography 1994), co-founder of Content Creator Studios and previously Warner Bros. Studios Innovation and Creativity Lead. “We so often stay in these familiar areas of thinking, where we feel comfortable, safe and happy.

“But are you really happy accepting that you're only using such a small part of your brain for such a large part of your working life?”

In a recent talk as part of the UCL Connect professional development series Jason delved into how we can harness the creative skills we all have but don't often use. Having spent much of his career developing out-of-the-box creative solutions and working with some of the world’s most creative filmmakers on movies including the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films and The Dark Knight trilogy, Jason has a unique perspective on creativity that he wants to share.

The importance of getting creative

Jason believes that children are naturally inquisitive but the strict boundaries we are subject to in adulthood lead us to being more closed-minded. He says: “For people in large organisations, instead of expanding our ideas like we did when we were much younger, we start to reduce them down so that we don't look silly in front of other people.”

But with changes to the job market because of the pandemic, and the huge advancements in AI technology, Jason argues that innovation and creativity are now skills to be valued above many others.

“If you want to make sure that your job isn’t consumed by AI then it's a good idea to focus on those skills where you can add real human value,” he says. “We can bring a lot of passion and fun into our work through creativity. Being happy releases dopamine, the reward drug, that in turn improves our focus and helps the ideas process.”

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Jason’s top tips for creativity

To help you push your own creative boundaries in a working environment, Jason has distilled his learnings into ten tips. Here are five to get you started.

1. Be proactive

Inspired by Socrates and the story of his spiritual demon, Jason believes that if you want something to happen, you need to make it happen. “The ‘inspiration demon’ will come to you, but you’ve got to open the door. Innovation is not going to hit us passively, you have to go after it with grit, ambition and determination. But above all, bravery.”

With this, it’s also important to take risks and to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Jason says: “When you come up with an idea which gives you a slightly nervous feeling inside your tummy, that's often a really good sign.”

2. Identify any barriers to creativity and how to remove them

The biggest reason that so many great ideas never even get aired in the room is fear of what others might think as it’s almost impossible to be creative when we feel threatened or scared. To be creative we need the support of our bosses and colleagues. Building a culture of creativity involves ensuring leadership don’t just think creativity is important but feel personally responsible for helping to deliver it. And once they’ve heard the ideas, they are prepared to take measured risks to implement them without delays and dilution of the idea which can often lose the organisation’s creative edge.

Secondly, to kickstart your creative brain Jason recommends setting aside time in your diary to focus as an individual, as a team or as a company, with less noise and distraction. Pair back technology and get everyone together in a room with lots of natural light and tables against the wall, then start to ideate. Jason says: “Tables tend to split up the room and can stop the idea generation and flow around the space. Have some natural, healthy sugars and brain food in the room, as well.”

3. Learn from others

Jason encourages everyone to get excited by the ideas of others – your colleagues, your friends or even outside influences. ‘Creative collisions’ can happen when you mix with people from different industries and departments. Jason says: “Quite often we’re too close to our own work and can’t see the obvious things. These end up being pointed out to us by people that have nothing to do with our line of work. We call them ‘uninformed geniuses’ or ‘naive experts’.” And of course, once you’ve accepted we all come up with different ideas and have very differing strengths, you can play to your own best traits, bring your head and your heart together to be truly you and let other people do the same.

Bringing customer insight into your creative workshopping is also a fundamental part of the creative process. “Make sure you’re grounded in solid insight and understanding,” says Jason. “This will make it very clear which sandbox you need to play in.”

4. Think positively

Rather than abandoning ideas too early, repeatedly saying “Yes. And...” in creative sessions can empower people to work together to improve a concept. Jason explains: “You could start with an idea that isn’t working but by the time you’ve finished throwing it around the room and giving other people a chance to contribute, it may take on a totally different form.”

5. Change your environment

Switching your scene is a tried and tested technique for boosting creativity. From going for a walk to having a bath, a change of environment is a great way to refresh your creative mind. 

Jason says: “Hardly anyone says they came up with a great idea in the office! Da Vinci used to sit by a stream and Tesla saw the electric motor in his head while he was out walking in the park. Remember, one of the most powerful entertainment franchises of all time [Harry Potter] was created in this little nondescript neighbourhood cafe in Edinburgh.”

Want to find out more?

To learn more tips from Jason on unlocking your creative potential, watch the full recording of the How to… be daringly creative event.

To expand your learning further, explore more UCL Connect content. UCL Connect brings professional development opportunities and expertise from alumni to the UCL community, so you can take the next steps in your career with confidence. Whether you’re still studying, established in your career, moving into a new industry or considering your options post-graduation, the UCL Connect series has something for everyone.