“Whatever you think, think the opposite” – creative techniques explored

by | Dec 20, 2021

Janusian Thinking is a method for coming at a creative problem from a completely new angle – and it could just be the tool you need…

That quote in the headline comes from Paul Arden who spent 14 years as the Executive Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi, and is the title of one of his best-selling books: Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite.

‘Do the opposite’ is a useful creative process to get you out of a rut, or to challenge your own thinking. You can also use it to challenge conventions or norms in your space.

Researcher Albert Rothenberg analysed the process of creative geniuses like Einstein. He coined the term ‘Janusian Thinking’ to describe the ability to hold completely opposing views at the same time. It’s all to do to with the Roman god Janus.

What is Janusian Thinking?

Janusian Thinking is a process that asks that you challenge assumptions and come at your challenge from a completely different direction.

To put it in action, first list all the conventions that apply to your category, product or area… and then reverse them.

Alternatively, when working on a project and you’ve generated a number of options you like, choose one and deliberately find an opposing point of view to your position. Be as contrary as you can.

In a recent example, car manufacturer Dacia launched the world’s first mud wash in an attempt to make Brits “adventure-ready” in the new year.

The thinking behind the concept is that almost half of the drivers of vehicles with four-wheel drive have never taken their car off-road. Dacia wants to change that for Duster owners at least, thus reversing the idea that a clean car is the ideal.

Dacia Mud Wash

And the process doesn’t just work for marketing…

A twist on Facebook’s safety check

Launched for maximum impact on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Black Lives Matter campaign unveiled the “Unsafety Check” app that allows black people on social media to mark themselves unsafe for being black in America. This was a clever twist on Facebook’s “safety check” feature, which lets users in a crisis area tell friends they’re safe. It’s also a sobering example of doing the opposite to raise awareness of this issue.

In his work Volte Face, meanwhile, photographer Oliver Curtis travelled the globe capturing the world’s most famous landmarks including the Colosseum, the Pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, Stonehenge… the list is endless. But if you look at his images, it’s unlikely you’ll recognise any of them.

That’s because Curtis looked at the famous subjects, then turned around and photographed the ignored landscapes in the opposite direction.

A farewell to a British icon

Sadly, I noticed that the British architect Richard Rogers, who changed the London skyline with his designs including the Millennium Dome, passed away this weekend. He was one of the pioneers of the “high-tech” architecture movement, distinguished by structures incorporating industrial materials such as glass and steel.

He is also the co-creator of France’s Pompidou Centre – famous for its multi-coloured, pipe-covered exterior – designed with Italian architect Renzo Piano. The Pompidou Centre is an incredible example of ‘doing the opposite’, by putting all the pipes and internal engineering of the building on the outside – making the hidden, visible.

On a side note, Rogers left school with no qualifications before going on to study architecture at Yale. What an original, remarkable thinker. We all dream of leaving a legacy like this man truly has.

Here at Now Go Create, we’re obsessed with all things creative and what makes ideas fly or fail. Join us on one of our highly-acclaimed courses to sharpen your creative skills.

Image above originally posted on LinkedIn 



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