Get the spark back!
Bringing back a culture of ideas post-pandemic
|Reading time||6 minutes|
|Date||02 Jun 2021|
We, the world, have an inspiration problem. We’re burned out, exhausted, sick of work; and our extracurricular options seem limited to either doom-scrolling or trying to find something we haven’t already binged on Netflix.
With a terrifying virus ravaging the world and the economy, the very thought of doing anything new or different is almost nauseating. We’ve become anxious, reactive and risk-averse. Our energy stores are depleted.
The effort we spent to adapt so quickly to our changing world last year — the way we shop, the way we work, the way we meet, even the way we celebrate — was innovation for the sake of survival. We changed because we had to.
But in all this survival, sensibility and pragmatism have been our drivers. We’ve forgotten what it feels like to be driven by passion, fueled by inspiration and ignited by a spark of creativity. It’s time to get that back. How do you bring passion back to your work? How do you engineer A-HA moments when everything is so predictable?
With new ideas, of course! And not the kind that come from racking your brain to solve problems you’re currently facing. That’s the survival mode experience we’re trying to leave behind. You need a path to inspiration and a few methods to get you there easily (and regularly). Here are our favorite ways to spark creativity, hone in on what’s good, and bring passion back to your work (and life!).
Scrap the brainstorming sessions
The great brainstorming wave is over. People are realizing a group idea session is a pretty average way to drum up ideas. These are too random — they lack structure and tend to favor the extroverts in the room. And a brainstorm over Zoom? Forget about it. We say start doing the opposite.
Instead of trying to solve a challenge, think about the exact opposite of what you want — what you hate, don’t want, and what would actually ruin everything. Here’s how the “Opposite Method” works:
- Look at your challenge in its simplest context
- Write down all the ways that you could make the problem worse:
- What solutions would piss off your customers the most?
- What would get you fired?
- Which platforms and formats are least likely to work when solving this challenge?
By removing pressure from finding a system or solution that works and instead focussing on what doesn’t work, you and your team might actually find magic! You’d be surprised — looking at things backwards can give you inspiration like you wouldn’t believe.
Push past first impressions
We all have biases that affect the way we see the world and how we interpret new ideas. Inherent bias leads people to reject new things based on a gut feeling or intuition, rather than logical or informed decision-making. This can be frustrating for the individuals putting great ideas forward (not to mention terrible for morale).
One of the best ways to combat these inherent biases is to lean further towards something that “just feels wrong.” Embracing discomfort can have a huge payoff.
Nike founder Phil Knight was famously unsure about the brand’s trademark “Swoosh” logo when it was first presented to him in 1971. But he remained open-minded and aware that it might grow on him, and it’s now one of the most valuable and recognized symbols in the world.
While we wouldn’t advise you to completely ignore a strong feeling, we would advise you to investigate those feelings. Why don’t you like it? Can you articulate this? Giving specific feedback is guaranteed to help you achieve better results, so learn about the best ways to make sure you’re communicating your POV before shutting an idea down altogether.
Leave metrics at the door (for now)
In business, it’s vital to be rational. We must validate each decision with reason, logic and metrics in order for the solution to be considered viable. These tools help us mitigate risk, to scale talent and to make decisions.
But at Modulr, we know there’s something else — something intangible that contributes to brand and product success.
Some things can’t be measured, or pushed into a little box and categorized. It’s that special, inexplicable quality all the best ideas have. It’s soul. It’s a vibe. An undeniable quality that makes certain ideas feel like magic.
Just like the “just feels wrong” ideas, some ideas “just feel right.” You know it when it happens. Don’t be afraid to be guided by this reaction! Businesses are allowed to feel, and some things just can’t be measured.
Time: Make it, use it, leave it
Obvious anecdote time: even The Beatles did not walk into the studio and write a hit in the space of one day. If you want to open up space for amazing creativity, then stop rushing things! Here’s how to make the most of the time you have:
- Give your team advanced notice if they are expected to come up with an idea in a meeting. If you frequently schedule brainstorming sessions without giving any context, then start telling people what the challenge is upfront.
- Allow quiet thinking time during meetings (no shouting over one another). A better strategy is to ask the team to write down ideas in silence for a set time period, then read out their favorites. It’s the best way to cut the wheat from the chaff.
- Let people sleep on the problem or solution for a few nights. Having time to completely forget about something always gives a new perspective, so make sure this is factored in.
- Use your “time craters”. In Jake Knapp’s book Make Time, he warns of “time craters”, those minutes (whether it’s ten or twenty) before a meeting where you tend to drift into another headspace and not get much done. You could also use that time to mull on a challenge, letting it turn over in your mind until your next engagement. Step away from your desk and let your mind turn over. It’s much more fun than mindlessly scrolling news websites or Instagram, and more energizing!
Acknowledge that with more time, you can create better solutions and that rarely is ideation a life or death activity, so take the pressure off yourself and your team to come up with solutions on the spot.
Don’t forget to daydream
If you’re looking for a radically fresh perspective, chances are that your normal well-trodden internet path won’t provide it. Look further, and put down your phone.
Philosophy, the arts, engineering, cosmology, military strategy — go far, go beyond! Ask your grandma how she spent her time in the 50’s. Ask a child how they think lasagna is made. Ask yourself what you’d do if you could travel into the past or the future.
Allowing the mind to wander is the best possible way to a) relax, and b) have new ideas, or look at things differently.
Staring out of the window is still a perfectly viable option (even in lockdown) and if anyone questions you, let them know you’re busy getting your spark back. 😉