This post is one in a series from a presentation on Creative Slip-Ups: The 11 Most Common Mistakes in Brainstorming. The Introduction to the series is here.
The slip-up: Brainstorms often start with the same old objective.
In communications, the two most common objectives given to us by clients are 1) generate media coverage, and 2) generate awareness. In other industries, you probably find you use the same objective over and over too.
The problem isn’t the objectives. They’re the wrong type of objectives. They’re strategic objectives, not creative objectives. Strategic objectives anchor the direction of a campaign or assignment. Creative objectives open up that direction to different perspectives for people to explore in brainstorming.
Also, if a brainstorm begins from the same point each time, it means people brainstorm in the same tactical direction. By starting from an alternative point-of-view – even a perceptual one – the brainstorm can go in new directions.
This slip-up reminds me of the famous quote by Einstein. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.”
The solution: Change your perspective.
Change the objective’s viewpoint in relation to the situation by placing it in a different “frame,” such as paraphrasing the objective and writing it from someone else’s perception, approach or perspective.
For example, to re-launch a pharmaceutical drug to combat the ugly but non-life-threatening yellow nail fungus, here are some variations of the “generate awareness” objective:
- Change people’s notion of what’s acceptable.
- Bring an embarrassing topic out in the open – but in a comfortable way.
- Make the product appear in a natural place in people’s lives.
- Tap into conversations people have every day.
Using #3, we began to brainstorm where finger and toe nails appear naturally in a woman’s day. We immediately jumped to manicures and pedicures. Our campaign could begin by educating nail salon employees who in turn would talk to their customers about how to alleviate the yellow nail fungus.
Played out further, this idea led us to look at creating “toe trucks,” a mobile van driving around the city giving out free manicures and pedicures.
Ask someone entirely unrelated to the situation, product or category to help solve the problem. It might be literally: talk with experts or opinion leaders in different environments. You might get more creative and ask a child what he or she might do. It’s also a metaphorical game. Brainstorm a variety of different occupations – especially ones totally unrelated to your problem – and ask yourself how they might solve your problem.
For a crisis campaign, a client wanted us to develop some themes and icons to conceptualize a program for her P.R. counselors worldwide. We came up with a list of occupations who have or use early-warning or preventative devices. For example, a politician uses public polls, a chef uses a timer, a lifeguard uses flags, a conductor uses a baton, a policeman uses a speed camera, and a farmer uses a scarecrow in the fields to scare off crows.
The list of farmer devices also included the weather vane. With its distinctive shape and four directions which also spells out “NEWS”, the vane became the campaign’s new logo and theme.
All of these elements were perfect fodder for more brainstorming and idea generation.
Here’s some other posts which also speak to this issue.
What other tips or tricks have you used to look at your problem from a new perspective?
To re-start at the beginning of this series, click here.
Next Slip-Up: People come to the brainstorm in the wrong mindset.