December Brainstorm


In the midst of all the bustle of the holidays, why not take just a little time to think back on what this year has really meant for you, what you want for the New Year, and-maybe most importantly-to let the valued people in your life know how much they mean to you every day of the year.

Here are a few tips and inspirations to help you make this season creatively satisfying, sent to you with my best wishes and thanks for reading, passing it along to your friends and colleagues, and for all the nice feedback many of you send from time to time.

One of the standard ways to come up with something new is to change the size of something that already exists. For example, unfortunately for our environment, car manufacturers discovered that lots of people like driving BIGGER vehicles-hence the success of SUVs. In electronics, making thing SMALLER is the key, which is one of the reasons why the iPod is such a phenomenon

An example from my own experience: P. R. expert Amanda Barry and I have produced a small booklet of tips on marketing and P.R. for a recruitment firm. They paid for the printing and sent it to 5000 clients and potential clients. For us it's a nice little marketing tool, as the back cover gives information on our related books (mine is Do Something Different, hers is P.R. Power, both from Virgin Books).

ACTION: Consider whether in your field you can come up with a new product, service, or marketing tool by changing the size of something that exists.

A recent study revealed that people snacked more when candy was in a transparent container than in an opaque one, and when the container was within easy reach than when they had to get up to get to it.

These results are not exactly earth-shaking, but they do remind us of an important principle: namely, out of sight, out of mind (as well as 'in sight, in mind').

ACTION: If you want to be sure to spend time every day working on something that is important to you, keep a symbol of it visible or audible. This could be a photo or drawing, a word or a phrase, or a piece of music. It helps to change this symbol periodically to refresh its power to remind you to take action.

A little book I read recently is The Imagineering Way, Ideas to Ignite Your Creativity, a collection of notions from the people who design the rides and attractions for Disney's theme parks.

A lot of the concepts are familiar, but one that I found useful to be reminded of comes from Luc Mayrand, Concept Designer:

"If you find your logic is talking you out of a good idea, question the logic first, then question the idea. This is entertainment: logic is less important than the impact of the story and design."

I must confess that when I go to the movies, it really bothers me when there is a big hole in the logic of a story (recent example of a movie with a HUGE hole: "Flight Plan"), yet many of these movies are very successful anyway because they have a big dramatic impact

ACTION: Since we know that emotion is the basis of most decisions (we apply reasoning to justify our emotional decisions), consider whether you are giving enough weight to emotional impact in your products, services, and even in your personal communication. How can you add more oomph?

Another tip from Mayrand: "Pay very close attention to the first three concepts that come out (during brainstorming) - these are usually the most fresh and unhindered."

Another brief story from the Disney Imagineers: they wanted to have a water ride in the middle of the park, but realized that it would require placing a large reservoir nearby, which would be a poor use of precious space. One of them noted that there was already a large artificial lake not too far away-why not use that as the reservoir?

A new problem arose: to fill up the ride in the mornings required pumping enough water out of the lake to make its level fall temporarily by about two and a half feet-which is not how a lake would normally behave. Their solution: theme part of the lake as a tidal basin, where the level of water naturally changes by several feet each day.

There are two principles at work here. One is to take a fresh look at what you have already-the solution to a problem may be right under your nose. The second is the 'lemonade' principle: if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. In other words, find a way to reframe a potential weakness as a strength or asset.

ACTION: take a look at the challenges you are facing and see whether a solution or asset might be at hand, and how you could turn around potential problems.

I'll give you a personal example: I want to generate a new product to feature via the new website I'll be telling you about soon, but I'm very busy at the moment and don't have time to create a new book.

When I read non-fiction books, often I highlight the most useful bits and transcribe them so as not to forget them. I have done this for probably a hundred books, and it occurred to me that many of you who don't have a lot of time to read might find these notes useful.

Solution: put together some collections of these notes, themed by major topics.

The potential lemon: would the original authors object

The lemonade: link the titles directly to Amazon so that it's easy for people to order the complete book if they are intrigued by the highlights.

In a book called Play to Win, written by Larry and Hersch Wilson, I ran across an informal study conducted by writer Dick Leider. He interviewed hundreds of people in their 70's and 80's, and asked them what they would do differently if they had their life to do over.

Although there were many different answers, the Wilsons say they boil down to three big points:

(1) Instead of being driven by day to day decisions, they would focus more on their values and larger goals;

(2) They would have more courage in taking risks in careers and relationships; (3) They would try harder to leave a legacy, to do more for other people.

ACTION: If any of these three resonate with you, consider what you might want to do this day, this week, this month, and next year to make sure that you don't have any such regrets when you are older.

This quote comes from an artist named Susan Sorrell, who has a blog called Creative Chick:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, gin & tonic in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

Until next time-and next year,

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About The Author

Jurgen Wolff
Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen Wolff is a writer, teacher, and hypnotherapist. His goal is to help individuals liberate their own creativity through specific techniques that can be used at work as well as at home. His recent books include "Focus: the power of targeted thinking," a W. H. Smith best-seller, and "Your Writing Coach".