I can’t draw. I’m miserable at it and often mess up a simple stick figure. However, according to Jane, artistic talent is not the only way to be creative, so if we are talking about marketing, business and products, I consider myself creative. Just don’t give me paints! The trick is being as creative as possible without getting bogged down. There are a lot of strategies out there, but these are my favorites:
Just get started
Any project begins with a blank page – either electronic or physical. This blankness is daunting as we look and don’t know where to get started. Glen Lipka’s suggestion about starting with a pencil and paper are always very effective at getting ideas flowing. I start by doodling with a thought in the back of my mind. And when doodles have a problem to focus on, creative ideas come out of the woodwork and appear on the paper as if by magic.
Another study demonstrates that getting a lot of ideas out will eventually get to the creative ones. If you focus on picking creative ideas, you wind up cherry picking the best ones and leave a lot of possibilities unexplored. When you focus on a volume approach you end up with a larger quantity of ideas some of which evolve into much better ones with time and thought. A walk or my morning shower then takes these ideas turns them into more creative ones. It’s just a shame that pencil and paper don’t work very well in the shower, or I’d have graffiti’d the shower stall a long time ago.
For me, the concept of time limits had it’s genesis in an virtual crash course in design thinking offered online by Stanford. The entire 280 Group participated in the training to try it out and it was amazing how reducing the time available got us all to drive ideas onto paper – and later on, we used children’s craft supplies to turn them into ‘products’. My quick mock up of a wine gift display was constructed from paper and pipe cleaners – and is still in a small glass cupboard in the corner of the training room. Now I know why kids are so happy when their projects are done. It may be rough to look at, but I can still ‘see’ the final result through the cut up paper structure.
There are many time limiting options which generate a lot of ideas – or even other work – quickly:
- 3-12-3 Brainstorm from Gamestorming
- Pomodoro technique where you work for 25 minute stretches then break briefly.
To get ideas flowing, I now pick up a pencil and grab a few sheets of blank paper from the printer. Then I start a mental timer as I scribble, draw, sketch and write. Once I have lots of ideas, it’s easier to work out which direction to move towards.
Keep your perspective
From Eric Barker’s consolidation of Brainstorming studies come some interesting perspectives. Namely, individuals come up with more ideas than groups and that unconditional acceptance does not lead to the best ideas.
Most of my career has involved participating in diverse groups and we’ve achieved great results when everyone has remained engaged and shared their opinions. Most memorably, the misfit, left over group in our business school Strategy class where everyone was determined to get their point of view across. The end result was an A and the content was something I was very proud of. When I work with groups now, I prefer opinionated and diverse groups as the results are inevitably better.
Thoughts to hold onto
- Bring your own thoughts to the table or whiteboard.
- Hold on to your perspective, while accepting other points of view
- Decide on a short time period.
- Add to other’s thoughts and just keep the volume of ideas going.
You’d be amazed with what you are able to do in a short period of time.
Well, I had a meeting last week and some ideas have been percolating in the back of my mind, so I’m off to track down a pencil and some paper and we’ll see what ideas come up!