I’ve written before how about re-framing the problem is a great way to re-think your creativity. Another way leapt out at me today when I was reading the Sunday New York Times over the weekend. In yesterday’s Sunday Business, there was a common theme among most articles. How can you reposition something in your mind to see something else?
Foods with Benefits, or So They Say FMCGs and similar looking at ways to deliver functional benefits in existing food products.
‘Sex on Wheels’? Now It’s Room for Groceries Too Ferrari moving beyond vroom for thrills to room for hauling stuff around on the weekends.
Innovation, Gliding Across the Generations How two men re-purposed their grandfather’s invention for a different spot in 2011.
Behind The Greening of Walmart Convincing Wal-Mart to embrace sustainability simply by repositioning a conversation from hugging a tree to eliminating waste.
Even in the photo essay Seeing Beauty In The Rust Belt, Alyssha Csük used the leave-behinds from Bethlehem’s economic disuse as stimulation for things of beauty.
When trying to solve a problem, often we’re blinded by what we see in front of us. We might know too much about it. (“It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem.” Malcolm Forbes) We try to use too much of our background and history. (“The more you reason, the less you create.” Raymond Chandler.) We might apply assumptions. (“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” Alan Alda) We might be blinded by negativity or a lack of self-confidence. (The quote from the artwork: “A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”)
So how do you reposition what you’re looking at? Here’s how you can get what I like to call ‘naive creativity’ – a turn-of-phrase I’ve taken from a 2008 post from Tech Republic.
- Ask someone else to look at it. What do they see? The key to making this work is to shut up and listen. A trick? Ask someone (literally or figuratively) from a different profession or occupation to solve your problem.
- Think of your item – or problem – from the point-of-view of the journalist or blogger. What’s their independent/objective eye tell them?
- Reposition yourself. Photography class instructors talk about how a person should look at their shot from different perspectives. You can do the same with a brainstorm by literally changing seats or positions – as well as the item itself. Look at it from a different perspective. Turn it upside down, or look at it backwards. (Haha, sometimes literally.) Can you make it smaller? Larger? Remove or add an attribute to it?
- Think about how you might use your item/topic/solution for something else. The one example that always sticks with me: how consumers told Avon that its Skin So Soft was also a pretty good insect repellent.
- As I mentioned at the top, re-frame your problem in a different way.
- Try solving your problem in a different place. Have your brainstorm outside the office, either in a more casual place (like a local coffee shop) or in the environment of the target audience. I did a brainstorm once for an Australian ice cream brand where we carried clip-boards and wandered through supermarket aisles. Another time we did a brainstorm for a drive-thru restaurant by actually going through the drive-thru to see what the customers might feel.
- If you have the chance to try it – even on a less grand scale – crowdsourcing is a great option too. I really liked this post from Innovation Management on crowdsourcing – one of the best I’ve read, also a good primer if you’re not familiar with crowd-sourcing as an option.
Finally, one of the best ways to re-position something is to take a vacation from it. Either give it to someone else to brainstorm, or if that’s not possible, then put some distance between it and you. I was helping my friend Andrew brainstorm ideas last week long-distance. He’d been struggling with the problem for 3-4 days, obsessing over it. Obsession and creativity are fast friends, but at the same time, as my Grandma Eklund said, everything in moderation. (Hmm. Can you be moderately obsessive?)
Anyway, Andrew needed to give himself a break by doing something else. That’s the good thing about your brain: it’s like a beagle on a sock when it comes to creativity. Your brain will continue to think of new solutions/ideas while you’re doing something else. If you ask me, it’s the perfect way to multi-task.
What other examples do you know of that demonstrate reframing?