Do you have an alter ego?
Last week went to a party (somewhat last-minute) as the amazing talent that was Amy Winehouse. Complete with beehive, tattoos, 50’s dress and lashings of eyeliner I definitely stepped out of my ‘normal’. Although I wasn’t wearing a mask, I definitely felt that the costume gave me permission to speak, behave and act differently.
Sometimes we talk about ‘not being able to see the wood for the trees’. Researchers Kyle Emich and Evan Polman ran four studies which all showed that distancing oneself from a problem had a positive effect on the ideas that were generated.
There is a 101-creative thinking tool that can be helpful if you want to quickly and easily step out of your own way of thinking, and adopt another point of view. It allows distance from ‘silly’ or wild ideas because Amy, Kermit, Banksy or Kanye thought it, not you.
Many creativity techniques use the principle of substitution to get a new perspective and stimulate new lines of thought. In this example you swap your current thinking for someone else’s with often varied and surprising results.
Idea finding tool: Identify theft (sometimes Hall of Fame)
What is it? When you hit a brick wall, a brilliant way to inject a new spark into proceedings is to imagine how someone else would deal with your problem to get a fresh perspective.
How to do it:
Create the list of people, dead or alive, fantasy or real in the session by writing the letters of the alphabet A-Z on a flip chart and asking people to shout out names of people who they want at their fantasy dinner party.
There’s no end to the list you can use, but some of our favourites are a gaggle of creative brains consisting of Barack Obama, a Hobbit and Lady Gaga. Any of these, we’re pretty sure, would have an entirely new take on that marketing idea for your business, that new biscuit campaign or press release that has been leaving you scratching your head.
Share your well-formed problem statement with the group. E.g. How can we improve customer service? Pick one of your advisors e.g. Lady Gaga. Ask yourself what would she do with your problem?
Write down everything that comes to mind about it (don’t worry whether or not it seems directly relevant at this stage) and try to use your own or the group’s thoughts to generate more ideas and considerations.
Choose the thought or idea that seems to have the most promise then brainstorm ideas about your subject for 5-10 minutes. Keep working through your panel, choosing a different advisor when you run out of steam. This is part of the tool’s effectiveness – don’t overthink it, just change it around when ideas dry up.
Borrow the (imagined) attributes of someone else to lend new lines of thought to your problem
You can break into smaller teams to each take a different person and work through the challenge for 10 minutes, reporting back to the group.
Variation – use different companies to give you a different perspective. What would Disney or Virgin or Apple do? Or use a customer profile or persona to imagine what they would do with your problem.
Why it works: We talk about ‘not being able to see the wood for the trees’. Kyle Emich and Evan Polman ran four studies that all showed that distancing oneself from a problem had a positive effect on ideas.
My experience is that it allows you and others to quickly and easily step out of your own way of thinking, and adopt another point of view. It allows distance from ‘silly’ or wild ideas because Kermit or Donald Trump thought it, not you.
Who it’s for: This is a universally popular entry-level tool. It’s good for straightforward problems and requires almost no prep in a group setting. It’s deceptively simple but can have an amazing effect on idea generation. Work by yourself, in pairs or in smallish teams (around 5).
Good for: it’s quick, it’s fun, you get a large volume of ideas, gives variety, gets you out of a rut.
Not good for: developing strategy or unravelling complex problems that may have many component parts. If you want to be more targeted e.g. How to engender trust amongst our online banking customers then you can use related worlds technique that follows to ‘borrow’ from a world where trust is important.
Now Go Create run strategy, creativity and pitch training for agencies and in-house comms and brand teams online and in-person. Please contact me to chat about how we can help up the ante on your creative capabilities firstname.lastname@example.org