When, where and how do you get creative? Is it when you brainstorm with others, sipping espresso at a café, in the shower or just minutes before you fall asleep (and forget all about it the next morning)?
In my case I have found that the best ideas pop up when I can disconnect from everything, away from my iPhone and other distractions (not too far though, I need to be able to sketch or make a note before the idea evaporates). I know that people are different from each other, so I’m not going to tell you that what I’m about to write is the best way, it’s my way, and I’d love to know yours.
Let’s say that you work at our agency (Zooma) and have a customer with a problem and you’re going to solve it.
First you need to do your homework. Get to know the situation. Figure out what the customer’s problem really is (which is not always the same as the customer tells you). When you study the customer, his or her business challenges, strategies and so forth always try to link everything to yourself. You can, almost every time, find a connection to your own experiences in life, which will help you understand the situation.
When you've done this – let it go
The information you have learned is facts and analytics that could mess up the creative part if you let it become too dominant. In other words, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of making the obvious connections to solve the problem, which undoubtedly many before you have done, thus making the solution uninteresting.
So instead, let the information you’ve learned simmer for a bit before you start ideating. This is when all memories and knowledge from your life will give you ideas. The facts that you recently studied should be subconscious. You’re brain knows the problem and what you want to achieve but will not interfere, letting you start thinking lateral.
Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic.
Start anywhere and let your mind wander. This could literary be anything, e.g. how is my shoe connected to all this? You have to get to a place where your mind starts finding its own peculiar connections, not the obvious ones. Your own memories and knowledge will start discovering new ways to connect and the subconscious facts you’ve learned will hold you on the right path without you even knowing it. After a while ideas start popping up. Some just gibberish, some just out of reach and some that feel great.
I have a few states that help me to start thinking lateral. These are my most creative states and equally boring, when not ideating:
Lay down, eyes closed.
Walk without destination on a known path.
Take a bath.
All of these activities I try to do with as little external disturbance as possible.
Try to explain that work method to your boss… “I’m working hard from home today. I’m going to wander around for a bit, then take a nice bath. Afterwards I’m going to lay down and close my eyes.”
When you feel that you have got several great ideas (this could take a few sessions) it’s time to shift focus again.
Let’s go back to reality and start matching each of the ideas to the situation and see if they really sync all the way. Hopefully some of them do. The ones that do sync are ready to be conceptualised. But before you do that, talk to different people and let them have their say. Evaluate it and proceed or rethink. You don’t want to limit yourself to just your own ideas in the creative process
Start conceptualising by matching the idea to objectives, benefits and everything else that connects to the problem you’re trying to solve. Build a concept and figure out how it can be used short and long term? Can it evolve to something more? Can it be used for different purposes?
What all this boils down to is to learn how to find the place where you can think lateral in a focused area, and then create a solution that match the situation and can be measured by its effectiveness (customers tend to like it when you can prove that the solution works).