(2) Catherine AllenIn this seven-part series, we’ll talk with Catherine Allen, Senior Vice President in our Boston office, and look in-depth at what each of the 7 core values means and how they affect our work, our clients, our employees, and our community. In this post, we look at what it means to be creative at SHIFT.

Creative can seem fairly cut and dried, but it’s actually another one of those “you know it when you see it” qualities.

In an interviewing scenario, I always ask candidates about the most creative campaign you’ve done or the craziest idea you’ve ever had. Or tell me about a situation that was really hard and how you found your way out of it. I’m looking for a creative solution versus a more standardized approach, something that shows you can think a little differently, and that’s the mindset we want to have at SHIFT. What did you do that was unexpected?

From a team perspective, when I look at a project plan or a pitch, I ask, “What surprised me?” or “What got me excited?”. It might be something as simple as a few sentences that really hooked my imagination of what was possible. I remember working with the team on an award application for a campaign to bring awareness to one of the national weeks, and the pitch started out talking about how there was a national week for just about everything from styrofoam cups to dolls. That was a different, tongue-in-cheek way of looking at the program rather than just the standard “Here’s a cause to be aware of”. Creative doesn’t always have to be a massive, huge surprise – it can be little twists that keep you engaged and awake.

I tend to turn back to the team any plan or pitch or deck that doesn’t contain any surprises or that the client would have come up with on their own. That’s how we feed creativity – we keep pushing until we find things that our clients wouldn’t think of, our competitors wouldn’t think of, something even outlandish, but enough that it opens eyes and excites our clients. We look for good ideas and we iterate on them until they’re something special and unique. Lots of ideas don’t start out that way, but when you put them on the table for everyone to bounce around, they evolve, they become more creative as they benefit from everyone’s different views of the idea.

Catherine H. Allen
Executive Vice President


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