Neglect your intellect and other tips on creative thinking.
Jan Van Mol - Addictlab.com - sept 2009
Lateral thinking, disruption, you name it, and people have been writing books about it, and earning fees that would feed a small African village for a century or so. But is it that remarkable or out of the ordinary?
Disruptive thinking is a catchy term. It sounds drastic, cruel, and it needs specialists to implement. But basically, creative thinking is - per definition - tearing you away out of your comfort zone. Think out of the box and more of that. Disruption is thus a more assertive way of describing the creative process.
Much needed, I know, since the term 'creative' itself has been used, abused and overused the last decennia, defining work done by slick advertising guru's as well as the activity of group beading at your local crafts center , preferably done by housemoms. What follows are some tips on creative thinking, or disruptive thinking. Since I believe it's what makes us human, and is thus, per definition, not the sole ownership of agencies.
1. Periscope vision.
Know that feeling of being submerged in your work? Busy, busy? Now, a pretty easy way of looking for ideas is to apply a periscope vision. You dive to the surface from whatever depths your regular job takes you, and you use an imaginary periscope to browse to whatever surrounds you. You'll be amazed what you see and (re)discover.
2 . Choose your battle.
Here is my 'quantum leap theory' for brands, applying some state of the art physics to branding & marketing. I believe you can define your brand as the collection of a series of brand-molecules such as:
Sales - Management - Products - Services - Environment - Share holders - People - Brick & mortar - Human resources - Assets - History - Competitors - Family - Social Tissue - Political present - etc etc …
All of those elements together define your brand. Building a brand is thus a very complex task, and goes far beyond the activities in your existing departments of today. This system shows that a brand is a dynamic system, never static. It's difficult to control, difficult to measure. 'Branding' is then looking for a point of gravity of all of those elements, never perfect, since constant in motion, in size, direction, axes and levels.
Innovation is thus the application of controlled power boosts to those different aspects/molecules, so that your brand, in its totality, gets to another energy level. idea generation is the same thing: choose your battle, select your subject, and fire away.
3. Add layers of research.
Whatever you do, you're not doing it alone, on an island, without any interference with and from your surrounding. You never are. So looking for new ideas for your business implies understanding the environment your business is in. Add layers of research, and start from a broad spectrum before narrowing it down to the problem at hand.
4. Build a reflex.
I can run around in the red light district of Amsterdam and have an idea for a broom company. I can read a book and have an idea on chocolate taste. Is that disruptive thinking? Or merely creating inspirational links? In our research we try to find links kasino that are normally not there. The more you do this, the easier you are building that reflex.
5. Reset the parameters.
An example of Parameter resetting. In this case, we shifted thinking from trying to sell chocolate to trying to create experiences. Inside the book is the chocolate figure. This 'book' creates a unique brand experience linked to the story (about 'Sinterklaas' on the cover, who has this book with the names of all children that have been good). The concept enriches the experience for children, and... justifies a higher price.
6. Question the question.
In creative thinking, you always question the question. Because whoever asked you something might have a limited view of the possibilities, or a restricted vision of the needed outcome.
Lee Cooper wanted us to create a collection with a new sort of jeans fabric they had produced. Labmember Aleksandra Paskowska did all that. Yet she added an extra product: a sleeping bag for two. It was that product that was picked up by the press.
7. Rebirth : start from scratch
Sometimes it's best to imagine a rebirth. Of your company, of your service, your product. Question why you engaged in this or that process again in the first place. This thinking allows you to go back and leave out some of the steps you have been taking throughout the process.
Look at the stones on the right hand side, developed by two labmembers linked to the World Cup Football. It brings back the game of football to the essence: an object, to be kicked.
8. Dare to think the unthinkable: neglect your intellect.
We are limited by what we know. The more we know, the more restricted we are in our free thinking. So you need to neglect your intellect. Go with first impressions, emotion, rather then ratio. Get out of your comfort zone.
9. Spring cleaning.
This is an important one. In your environment, that one new idea might already be there. What am I saying, it probably is. But that particular concept didn't show up on the radar. Maybe it came too soon, maybe the organisation was not ready for it, maybe the company structure simply doesn't have a system to track ideas that come from within. That guy on the work floor has an idea to improve the production. What system is in place to know about that? It would be good for the company, and it would certainly be showing respect to the possibilities of your employees. How do you log those ideas? How do you trace them?
Think of it as spring cleaning. While doing that, you bump on things you never realised you actually have. Most to be thrown away, but maybe a moment to rediscover one of the assets you had forgotten about.
10. Marshal your people & your thoughts.
As for that idea from the guy on the work floor: install a system for ideas to show up on the radar. Allow your people to be involved and come up with ideas. Make sure some ideas actually are implemented. This encourages free thinking and changes your employees into brand ambassadors. Install a concept squad, and give them a mandate of idea generating power.
For more thoughts, get in contact with the Addictlab organisation, or mail