Embrace the bizarre – how exaggeration can be a powerful creative force

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Creative people are unreasonable, fantastical and they like to provoke. Exaggeration is their weapon.

A great way to come up with ideas that are out of the ordinary, is provoking. You make statements that are wrong, unreasonable or downright impossible. The creative might say: “Let’s give our new cars square wheels.” Or “Let’s design a new coffee mug without a bottom.”

Provocative ideas like these can get you fired if your superior is not appreciative of creative ideas. However, they can also secure your job for the next decade or so, when you figure out how to save tons of money for your firm.

Just like the use of a random stimulus, the provocation makes sure you’ll break free of fixed thinking patterns. After making the provocative statement, you suspend your judgement and you use your bizarre idea as a stepping stone to get to more feasible ideas. You use your provocation as an original starting point to generate interesting ideas that would normally not have crossed your mind.

Make sure your statement is as bizarre as possible. Steer clear of ‘safe’ realistic ideas. Your statement can even be entirely impossible. The stranger your statement, the easier it is to generate ideas. Always keep in mind; it is easier to tone down a crazy idea than it is to transform a boring idea into something exciting.

The exaggeration

There are several ways to come up with provocative statements. One easy way to do it is by exaggerating one single aspect of your subject. You can exaggerate quantities, weights, speeds, frequencies, volumes and so forth.

You can increase or decrease, enlarge or shrink, speed up or slow down… As long as it’s unrealistic, it’s a useful provocation.

An example of an exaggeration could be: “a phone with infinite buttons.” It is not hard to imagine a challenge like that leading to the first smartphone (with the possibility to add endless amounts of ‘apps’).

Stir up your market. What product or service can you improve or revolutionize by using this technique? How about a book with a billion pages? Or a book with just one single page… A hotel with infinite rooms, a candy bar the size of a truck, an ambulance going at the speed of light or a cab driving just one single meter every hour… Have some fun coming up with exaggerations like these. Sit down with a colleague and make each other laugh. Then take a close look at your fabrications. Think about ways to travel from absurdity to ingenuity. ‘If we were to put these weird ideas into practice, how would we go about it?’

What ideas does the crazy example stir in your mind? Can you bend the craziness into something useful? Does it give you inspiration for breakthrough innovations?

What product or service would you want to revolutionize? Or what challenge drives you crazy?

Try it out. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Don’t be shy and share your experiences or questions in the comment box below.

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