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Can You Be Creative In A Regulated Industry?

Regulated industries turn out plenty of bad and boring creative. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s how we think about creativity.

Articles by sethstyers
By Seth Styers Senior Copy Manager, Betterment Published Sep. 18, 2020
Published Sep. 18, 2020
2 min read

From finance to pharma, regulated industries catch more than a few (well-deserved) bad raps, including one close to my heart: bad creative.

“It’s boring.”

“It’s wordy.”

“It all looks the same.”

Blame for those sentiments often lands on those enforcing the regulations or the regulators themselves, like in-house Legal and Compliance Teams and governmental agencies. But it’s up to us—writers, designers, and our adjacent partners—to create and advocate for great work that meets everyone’s expectations.

Can you be creative in a regulated industry?

Of course! For me, the joy of working in fintech is in the challenge itself: fostering beautiful, badass, engaging creative ideas and executions in an unlikely place.

Although regulated industries turn out their share of bad creative, there’s plenty of boring, wordy work that all looks the same in unregulated environments as well. That’s why we have to reframe the problem.

Compliance isn’t the enemy, complacency is.

Regulations aren’t arbitrary rules designed to transmogrify our otherworldly concepts into bland copy and design. They’re built to protect and inform consumers. Working within the guidelines of what is and isn’t legally and ethically compliant isn’t antithetical to great creative—it’s what sharpens our ideas.

That isn’t to say that creativity in a regulated world is easy. Like anything worthwhile, it takes hard work and flexible thinking. The value of a great creative team (and great creative partners) is not in the raw conception of an idea, but in the building up, tearing down, twisting, turning, and wringing of the idea until it works and works well.

Broaden and elevate your creative inspiration.

Within a regulated industry, it can be easy to feel like you’re in an echo chamber of boring work. Change that. If everything looks and sounds the same, break away from your norms for inspiration:

  • Find companies and people doing great creative work outside your industry and think through ways to translate that brilliance to your world.
  • Consider work that comes from people who don’t look, sound, or think like you, from companies that aren’t even meant for you.
  • Look beyond traditional advertising and brands. Restaurants create incredible feelings and experiences. Cities craft unique identities for themselves. Inspiration doesn’t have to come in the form of an ad.

It’s easy enough to think that unlimited creative freedom equals better work. “If only I could do, make, say, think whatever I wanted…” But where’s the excitement in that, and what’s the challenge? If it were easy, it wouldn’t be great, and it wouldn’t be fun.

After all, what makes us stronger? Pushing against resistance. The same goes for creative work. In fintech, the resistance is built in. The joy comes in meeting that resistance with our best ideas.

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