The Answer is Right Where You Won't Find It.
Okay, so my tastes run a little eclectic, but when I'm jammed in a creative
rut, I whip out a stack of my favorite CD's and relax to my favorite Elektra
library of sound effects.
No kidding, nothing gives your brain a re-charge like kicking back and
trying to make sense of a sequence of seemingly unrelated aural events.
I just pop in a disk and listen to Body Falling Down Stairs,
followed byTrain Whistle and Children Playing in Schoolyard,
and well, you get the idea.
You have to do this with your eyes closed, incidentally, to get the full
effect. It takes about three selections before you start visualizing each
effect. After about five, you catch your brain trying to link the sequences
together to make some kind of sense.
Bugle Calls, Woodworking Shop, Big Door Closed with Reverberation,
Automatic Garage Door, Heartbeat -- now that's weird enough
to link into a Pseudo-Psycho Hitchcock movie. Bicycle Chain, Police
Car, Submarine, Video Game starts to meld into an Independence
Day meets Waterworld sort of genre.
You don't have to do this very long before you realize that your brain
really enjoys getting stretched like this. It almost can't help itself,
frantically stitching together these random factors into an understandable,
logical sequence. And if you pay attention, it doesn't take very long until
you begin solving strategic problems the same way; deliberately looking
for solutions where you shouldn't be finding them.
The fact is that many of us are so hung up on having our ideas accepted
that we lose focus of our true objective: solving a problem. But guided
by a strong strategic discipline, you'll find that working your way back
from a randomly selected source can produce effective, creative results
of dimensional proportions.
I recall a design problem I encountered developing "the world's
lightest, smallest and most portable camera tripod." Every design I
came up with was still too large, too expensive and too bulky, until I decided
to link the ordinary to the weird:
What if the tripod had four feet instead of three?
I suppose I could have just as easily imagined it with five, but randomly
selecting four did the trick, producing a radical re-design that flew through
the U.S. Patent office in record time. True, I could no longer accurately
call it a tripod, but nobody since has complained about it.
I once pitched a video dating service account. Seven other agencies presented
campaigns about the company's state-of-the-art facility and new machines,
because they thought that's what the client wanted to hear. We could have
done the same, but just for exercise, decided to start at a randomly selected
point -- the video-date consumer -- to see if we could work our way back
to a strategically sound campaign.
The result was a campaign that took video dating from a "last ditch
effort for losers who can't get a date" to "a service for people
who were too busy to be contacted through by any other means." No mention
of state-of-the-art facility or new machines. All of a sudden, being a video
dating customer meant you were in demand. A winner.
Sure, it was a risk. But we didn't let the chances of acceptance get
in the way of a good idea. And it's a good thing we didn't, because we got
It's good to take occasional trips through the realm of randomness, where
searching for logical links can piece together some of the most innovative
ideas you'll ever have. It's okay to search for a link between trucks and
tampons. But a word of warning: as important as jumping off into the world
of weird is, it's equally critical that you feel your way back with a strong,
strategic discipline. One that makes sense on the bottom line.
Otherwise, people will think you're just some nut who listens to sound