“… All work is an act of creating and comes from the same source… The capacity to see, to connect and to make what had not been seen, connected and made before.” – Ayn Rand
Your work is not a curse… It is not a barrier to a life a leisure. It’s an opportunity to find purpose in partnering in the act of creation. As you go into this new year, reconsider the way you work and the reasons for your work.
Before you get out of bed you have a decision to make: Am I going to be a consumer or a contributor today?
You have a thousand messages in your environment that are attempting to consume your morning and thwart your additive potential. Morning news, social media, talk radio, and the drive through at Starbucks are all attempting to position you to consume more. You should take this personally! The more you are consuming, the less you are creating and contributing.
Recently I walked into the lobby of a creative marketing company and the loudest visual in the entryway of this 7-story building was a lady selling handbags. The first message the employee’s of this company are subconsciously greeted with is: You are a consumer. Do you want to buy?
Most places want your attention, but the environment you create in should be one that calls for your contribution.
It’s a known fact that many of the great creatives like Mozart, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Frank Lloyd Wright all chose the early morning hours as their chronological canvas. Science supports that the grogginess of the brain, during the morning hours, lends itself to a relaxed state, which enables the acceleration of free flowing ideas. The morning also gives you the ability to control the messages assaulting your subconscious. Your next big idea doesn’t care that you’re not a morning person as much as it cares about having your full attention.
Consume less. Create more. Get angry with the superfluous thieves of your attention. Choose a routine and environment that calls for your contribution.
A competitive nature is glorified in the sports world, but the creative landscape tends to treat competition as an unearthly 2nd cousin. Counteraction would appear to oppose the key forces of cooperation and collaboration that most creative environment’s strive for. It’s true, competing structures are harmful when they are invited to exist between creative people on the same team. However, if harnessed and directed against the correct forces, competition can keep the brain interested and assist in moving creative boulders.
Creative blocks require a change in pressure in order to be displaced. Typical thought has told us we need to take a walk, think about something else… and sometimes that is the perfect solution. However through our experience with sports we know that when there is 2 minutes left on the clock an entire football team can accomplish exactly what they couldn’t for the past 58 minutes. The pressure and competition against a clock forces us to push through obstacles that might have otherwise impeded our progress.
Peru is taking this notion of creative competition to new heights with a sport called Lucha Libro. It’s a creative twist on Mexico’s Lucha Libre, but instead 2 writers with masks are given 3 words and 5 minutes to write a short story in front of a live crowd. The audience gets the pleasure of watching both stories form on a projector, while the writers feel the pressure of time and a captive audience. At the end the loser takes of their mask off while the winner is advanced to another round where they are given an opportunity at landing a book deal (read more about Lucha Libro here).
If you’re having trouble getting through a creative hurdle, you might need a warm shower… or it’s possible you might need 10 minutes on the clock and the promise of your favorite candy bar waiting for you at the finish line. Creating things should be fun! Make it a game and invite competition to forge a fire of creative play.
(This article was written to a 30 minute clock. Revisions were given a 5 minute clock. I may have gone over one of those times and as result did not win my favorite candy bar)
It’s common practice to apply the rules of improv to the group brainstorming and problem solving process. However I have found that the rules for live storytelling are a fantastic way to create fairytale’s but often struggle to create epic adventures.
I created an adapted set of terms to the common rules of improv that I apply to the brainstorming process. Traditional rules for brainstorming hinge on language that is always in agreement. Rabble-rousers struggle to embrace this “say yes…” language and contribute less to the process. Innovators who think best in groups tend to be at peak performance when they are allowed to wrestle with a topic, not simply whistle through a process.
Rules for group speak to Demolish groupthink:
- Show some moxy:
Moxy is urban slang for guts. The core ingredients for guts are humility and honesty. It takes humility to accept that you might be blind to the actual problem or the potential solution, therefore embrace the possibility of every idea contributed. Be honest with your thoughts and emotions. If you shut down your emotions your likely to clip the wings of your authentic ideas that could help your organization take flight.
- Sweeten the deal:
If you feel like someone has just offered a standard response, figure out a way to make it limited edition. Suggest power windows, Bluetooth connectivity, and the additional floatation bumpers that turn it into a boat! Don’t always try and engineer your own ideas from scratch. You’re in the room to build something together.
- Speak in axioms:
An axiom is a statement so filled with truth that it can’t be denied. The group thinking process is not the place for your assumed statistics like “99% of our customers think the color “purple penguin” is out of date and my neighbor agrees with me.
- Shift your posture:
Show Gumbi how it’s done, and get ready to be flexible. If you’re taking your ideas in the WOW direction then the result of your group thinking session is likely a fresh course of action. Get ready to alter you position on previously held beliefs and methods. The goal is for the best idea to win, so welcome it across the finish line when it arrives.
Wow is the response you give when you see the Grand Canyon, experience Apple product packaging, or meet my wife for the first time. Wow is the response that represents a refreshed adventure through the broken barriers of beauty. Wow is the reaction given when hope has been surpassed. So… how does one move an issue, idea, product, or organization up and to the wow? I’m glad you asked!
A step in the wow direction starts and begins with a clearly articulated DRIVE. In the book Think Better, Tim Hurson divulges the Productive Thinking Model (PTM) he created as an adaptation to Creative Problem Solving. He engineered an acronym called DRIVE to act as a tool to the second question in the PTM: “What’s Success?”
- Do- what do you want the solution to do?
- Restrictions- what must the solutions not do?
- Investment- what resources can be invested?
- Values- what values will you live by?
- Essential outcomes- what are the essential outcomes?
The productive thinking model
- What’s going on?
- What’s success? (DRIVE)
- What’s the question?
- Generate answers
- Forge the solution
- Align resources
Out of frustration most teams relegate to steps 4 and 5 as a rushed and repeated habit. Human ego allows us to fall victim to the belief that people fall in love with our answers and products. Sorry Charlie… they don’t. People fall in love with our reasons. People fall in love with DRIVE. Teams move fast with DRIVE. Ideas stick to the target with DRIVE.
Counter to our natural impulse the step in the wow direction is actually a step backward. The exciting part though is that once you step back and articulate what success looks like, you can start to DRIVE on target to breakthrough ideas that provide WOW inducing results. Get stepping!
I’m fired up to bring some unconventional topics to the conversation of Art.Wires.Soul over the next couple weeks. Every couple months I go through a deep dive reading binge; and I’m in one now. All flowing rivers have a source. Most of my ideations are inspired iterations of the postulations poured into me by others.
Below is a list of the books streaming through me right now. I highly recommend all of these, as you will feel their magnetic pull in my upcoming posts.
This recently released biography highlights the legendary journey of the only man to be a part of launching all 11 Disney theme parks. As Walt Disney’s personal speechwriter and close creative confidant, Martin Sklar provides an intimate window into his creative journey alongside some of the most innovative minds in entertainment.
Walt Disney had always tried to get more dimension in his animation and when I saw these tapes, I thought, This is it! This is what Walt was waiting for! But when I looked around, nobody at the studio at the time was even halfway interested in it.
- John Lasseter
Innovators are watchful guardians of dreams past, positioned to assist the future through the doors of the present. Before John Lasseter was the kingpin of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, he was an animator on the Walt Disney Feature Animation staff. John’s creative pains as an animator matched the artistic malaise of his inspiration Walt Disney. When John witnessed tapes of emerging computer graphic technology he put his heart and soul into a project to pitch the technology to his superiors as the future of animation.
John didn’t have to invent animation, computers, or good storytelling. The only thing he had to do was recognize the possible outcome of converging all three.
John asked two questions without even knowing it:
- What’s a point of pain I share with the creative greats of the past?
- Is that pain ready to receive the remedy that is present?
Being a pioneer doesn’t require inventing the wilderness, it simply requires the courage to step into it. John Lasseter gave the pitch of his life to his executive superiors and was fired minutes later. John had the right courage, but failed to consider one other key question before he gave his passionate pitch for the future…
What’s the pain of the people paying my paycheck?
John was fired because computer animation was not going to save the department any money. His remedy failed to medicate the pain of his superiors. This misstep could of dealt a lethal blow to his innovative potential, however the blindness of others only strengthened the resolve of his pioneering insights.
John went on to be one of the founders and key creative forces behind Pixar Animation, which Disney ironically acquired in 2006. His willingness to welcome a present future and step into the wilderness has ushered in the most unprecedented box office hit machine of all time.
I wonder what dreams you are going to be a watchful guardian of? To identify your story of innovation start with two questions: What’s a point of pain I share with the creative greats of the past? Is that pain ready to receive a remedy that is present?
Lunch is not a throw away event! The intentionality behind refueling determines the distance at which you can travel. Don’t simply place a 1-hour block of time on your calendar that says “lunch”, unless of course you’re not scheduling time for lunch at all (in this case plan on ending your day at 2:30pm because you non-lunch eaters are grumpier than uncle Charlie without football season).
Food refuels the body but you can also add 4 feasting techniques to provide further ambulation to your creative work life.
Mull and Chew:
Lunch can be the one good time to bring your problems to the table. Invite a design challenge, a strategy complication, or a stuck story line to dine with you. Don’t bring all your issues starving for attention, just the one that needs fattening up. Your laptop is not invited to this picnic, steal a crayon or marker from the hostess and use a napkin for notes. Sit with your problem and engage it in conversation like a crazy person, it just might tell you what it needs if you order it dessert.
Crew and Chew:
Create the cool lunch table of the office and invite the people who give you energy to nibble about nothing with you. If you’re a people person, then intentionally surround yourself with people during lunch that will ask good questions of you, make you laugh, or babble with you about your leisurely pursuit of choice. For those stuck behind computers most of the day, this refreshment will give you the energy necessary to dive back into the dark friendless hole that is your technological device.
If you rank high as an introvert then lunch is your chance to create headspace. Turn down the cool kid table and sit alone in introverted triumph. You spend time with people all day and stretch yourself in fantastic ways. Give your personality a break! If you spend all that time on Facebook though while you’re eating your chicken salad, it will melt away your introverted bliss and you’ll start hating the loudmouth extroverts of the world all over again. Embrace the silence and solitude and your people meter will recharge for the second half of the day.
Big League Chew:
The biggest superconnectors I know never eat lunch by themselves. One of the best books that I never read was “Never Eat Alone”. The book was about networking throughout the whole of your day. I never read it, but I bought the book to sit on my bookshelf as a reminder ;)
How do you tend to chew your food? What are some other unique ways to leverage the POWER lunch?
Every brainstorming environment requires a unique balance of stillness and stimulus (legal stimulants that is). Music is one of the easiest ways to pump creative rhythm into the brain. When music is playing your head starts bobbing, your foot starts tapping, and visuals begin to flow in and out of focus with the pulse of the beat.
Below is a sample brainstorm playlist I use when I write alone, brainstorm in a group, or design think with a company. Feel free to use it and have it spinning during your next creative session. To subscribe to the playlist click on this link: Think it out