Where Do You Put the Creativity?
By Jeffrey Baumgartner
One of the principle differences between anticonventional thinking (ACT) and most other forms of idea generation, such as brainstorming, creative problem solving (CPS) and scamper, is in where you should focus your creative thinking. Almost every creative thinking tool or process encourages you to be creative with ideas. It seems logical, doesn't it? If you want creative ideas, pump your creativity into generating them. Based on what we know about how the brain generates ideas, however, it's wrong. You should focus your creativity on how you formulate your goal (or problem). Indeed, this is what we do with ACT.
To understand why, let's take a peak into our brains. As I wrote in my article, "The Creative Idea", when you are trying to generate ideas to achieve a goal, your brain looks for ideas closely associated with the goal. For instance, if you are trying to come up with ideas for a new body lotion product, your brain will most likely search through your notions related to body lotion. You will think about your company's products, your competitors' products, chemical compositions (if you are in R&D), packaging and so on. Most likely, you will come up with ideas that could lead to incremental improvement, like lotion with perfumes or for special skin types. But unless you are naturally exceptionally creative, you are unlikely to come up with many outrageous ideas. This is probably why the typical supermarket shelf has dozens of varieties of lotion to choose from. Yet, there is little real difference from one variety to another.
Focus Creativity on Sexy Goals
ACT recognises that how your formulate your goal inspires the kind of ideas you have. So, instead of using a typical, boring brainstorming kind of problem statement ("In what ways might we improve our body lotion products?"), ACT concentrates on questioning the goal (to be fair, CPS does this too) and the urges you to use your creativity to come up with a sexy goal -- that is a goal that is interesting, provocative and desirable (CPS does not do this). The purpose of the sexy goal is to stimulate you to look in unexpected parts of your memory storage system -- or brain -- for ideas.
For instance, after questioning your goal, you might devise sexy goals such as...
If we were dishonest, immoral and greedy, what crazy capabilities could we claim (without any supporting evidence whatsoever) for our regular body lotion? This gets people thinking about other treatments that the company could market using its existing infrastructure.
Define the most sensuous body treatment in the world. This would focus thinking on application of body lotion and the feeling it leaves you with.
Devise a technical device that will keep the skin soft, smooth and moisturised all day. This focuses thinking away from lotion and into concepts such as technology, application methods and comfort.
If you try to devise ideas for any of these goals, you should find it relatively easy to be come up with some creative ones -- at least in terms of lotion. This is because each of these goals gets the brain looking at different, un-lotion-like notions in order to come up with ideas about lotion. You can learn more about how to formulate sexy Goals in my paper on ACT.
Of course there is no reason why you cannot combine the sexy-goal approach of ACT with other techniques to push further the level of creativity in your ideas. But if you start with a sexy goal, it really is much, much easier to have creative ideas.
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