Sustainable brand strategy for the New Economy.

The Importance on Non-Linear Thinking Pt.2…Mental Flossing

The Importance on Non-Linear Thinking Part 2 In Part 1 the “importance” of non-linear thinking, or managing non-linear thinkers was expressed as important. Perhaps expressing the importance of balance between non-linear and linear thinkers within an organization should be the focus. Left brain and right brain thinking, when combined and managed well can be very powerful.

What is the best way to inspire creative thinking? The brainstorm is dead. Sitting around a table in a conference room during a scheduled time is already missing the point. Creativity is not on a schedule. A creative person does not come into work, flip on a “creative” switch until 5 o’clock then flip the switch off. Creativity works best when it’s not constrained. That was the horse in a corral vs. horse in a pasture analogy. How about a brainstorm session among 5 people while going for a walk between 1:12pm and 2:37? Remove the constraints.

The following is a tried and true creative group activity to be used in place of brainstorming. I like to call it the Creative Cornucopia or “mental flossing”. I’ll use the launch of a Chinese Wine in the U.S. as an example. Many of the most successful marketing campaigns have come from this process:

1. Have a Plan – sometimes known as the Creative Brief. Establish the purpose and objectives of the brainstorming.

2. Appetizer – Identify who is going to participate in the group brainstorm. Send them an invitation (I use iggli.com) using something to initiate thinking about the subject. For the Chinese wine, each participant received a 3×5 card with images of Chinese culture with a date, time and location. They were also asked to bring something that makes them think about China.

3. Allow 24-48 hours for participants to think about the subject.

4. Main Course – Use a whiteboard or large writing surface. Once the group is together, start by asking questions about the subject. Not obvious questions, but abstract. In the case of the Chinese wine I asked the group questions like, “what if Cabernet never existed,” or, “what if France never made wine”… taking what’s obvious about the subject and removing them from the equation. If it were a bank I’d ask, “what if ATMs didn’t exist,” or, “what if we didn’t use money for economy?” Capture all comments.

5. Cross-Pollination – Take some of the answers in the main course and drill down further. In the case of “what if France didn’t make wine,” we looked at France and the culture. I asked for words associated with France’s culture, which I wrote on the white board. The group came up with words like, “wine, cheese, smoking, style, history”.

6. Cross-Pollination Word Smash – Take some of the key words from #5 and list opposing words. What’s happening by this point is your group is talking about the subject, but in a non-linear manner. By exploring the peripheries of the subject it gets the creative juices flowing. It avoids the problem of staring at a blank piece of white paper trying to get started.

7. Dessert – Identify and expand on emerging ideas. Some of the ideas that started to come out of the Chinese wine were “what is it like to try wine for the first time, what is like to do anything for the first time and what are some things someone can do to improve their image?” We listed a few celebrities and listed how they could improve the perception consumers had. Paris Hilton, John Elway, George W. Bush and Carrot Top were a few.

8. Recap and Connect. Leave the brainstorm with a homework assignment for each person to come up with 3-5 ideas, no matter how “out there” they might be (there are no dumb questions). Come back together in a day or two (don’t let too much time pass) and list ideas on the board. Rate them all based on how well they meet the objective, or creative brief in step #1. What are the advantages, limitations or truly outstanding ideas? The marketing message that came out for the Chinese wine was, “Be the First”. As in, be the first to discover wine from one of the last unknown wine growing regions on earth.

This is an abbreviated description of how to bring non-linear thinking into a group dynamic, especially a company. There is room for creativity here as there should be, but at the heart of the process is how to get all involved to think and talk about the subject in an abstract way. Hopefully you get a chance to try it. If you have questions facilitating the Creative Cornucopia with your group, email me any questions at rbakas@mac.com.

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2 Responses

  1. rickbakas says:

    @Brielle Thanks for commenting. Ever watch a movie called Surfwise? It’s a documentary about a guy who dropped out of society and lived non-linear. You might dig it.

  2. Brielle Chittim says:

    this is my favourite way to be, non-linear. I live my life that way, although I tried for a long time to be a lefty – and have expanded my non-linear creative process by megavolumes since I let go of the linear. I believe that it is mainly what you practice, that determines your creative approach and abilities – so I am impressed with this list and the fact that you conduct these things.

    I just happened along here through twitter and your convo with Rob McNealy – I think I got his name from an article on ‘ten people noobs should follow on twitter’

    My non-linear process that pretty much permeates my existence, is something I play with to – where I go into something I call ‘practical apophenia’ Blame it on Dada, William Borroughs, Dali and maybe that bottle of mescal that I drank in ’87.

    I thought of this when I read your list – I have this booklet of words typed out one after the other like it were a stream of words linked together in ordinary contexts. (can you say ‘contexts’ fast five times?’ Anyway, the words are all random, but they are almost all really interesting words. What I have done in the past is just let my mind choose the words somehow, maybe it’s more intuiton, because I am looking at the words and they are making some kind of sense in my mind, but I am not attempting to connect anything rationally. I let my mind flow another way, and it is like I step outside of my thinking body. I end up taking some of the words and writing poetry which often becomes a song. I also have started some interesting essays that way. The words are all nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. No colloquialisms, no prepositions, no contractions.. so the page looks very uniform and nothing attracts the eye except bits of language inbetween letters and words… I think the meaning that comes is pure intuiton. Some kind of honey made by the bees of Atlantis.

    Anyway, thx for the post.

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