Being creative is not just about being good at generating ideas. Above all, it’s about having the right mindset. If you want your team to be more creative you’ll have to challenge them to embrace (and build upon) bizarre ideas. At HatRabbits we’ve developed a simple little exercise that helps people to become more comfortable with “exceptional ideas”.
“The human mind treats a new idea the same way the body treats a strange protein; it rejects it.”
― Peter Medawar
People who haven’t had proper training in creative thinking are likely to behave like idea killers. Most of us are very pragmatic when it comes to judging ideas. There is always this little voice in the back of our minds, telling us why an idea won’t work.
“Yes, but…”. When you hear these two words at the beginning of a sentence (or thought) you know that you soon will witness the murder of one of your darlings. “That’s too expensive”, “it’s illegal”, “it’s impossible”, “it takes too much time”, “we’ve tried it before”, “that will never work” or the worst of all… “don’t be silly!”
Although everybody likes creative ideas, most of us find it very difficult to come up with extreme solutions. Even just considering the possibilities of a strange idea is often too much to ask. That’s why HatRabbits developed “That’s Outrageous!” a simple technique that helps you to get people in the right mood. It’s a short little exercise to show that there is value in every idea.
You can use it during a brainstorm to warm up participants.
Before you start. Divide the group into pairs and give each pair a fictional challenge. For example:
“How can we make sure that our fish restaurant is filled with customers on Monday evening?”
1. Hand Out Outrageous Ideas
Give each pair a bizarre suggestion to solve the fictional challenge.
- “We put super glue on every chair in our restaurant.”
- “We hire top models to work in our restaurant as waiters.”
- “We kidnap people from the streets and lock them in our restaurant.”
Obviously, these suggestions are unacceptable or not very realistic. Yet they spark our imagination. Most people will smile or laugh about these weird solutions. These outrageous ideas help to get the creative juices flowing.
2. Look For Benefits
Ask every pair to think (approximately 2 or 3 minutes) about the positive sides of their “outrageous” idea. Challenge your team to come up with original points of view. Let them write down circa 3 – 5 benefits.
“We put super glue on every chair in our restaurant.”
- Nobody leaves, so our restaurant will always be filled with people.
- We don’t need to clean the chairs anymore.
- Our customers have something to talk about during dinner.
- Customers can relate and identify with each other.
3. Look For Positive Alternatives
In what other ways can we reach these benefits? Ask participants to look for feasible (yet original) alternative ideas. Associate on the ideas.
Our restaurant will always be filled with people
We place lots of mirrors in our restaurant so it seems crowded.
We don’t need to clean the chairs anymore
We remove our furniture and become the first ‘Fish & Disco’ where you can dance and eat delicious fish snacks.
Our customers have something to talk about during dinner
We provide conversation topics with every meal like the messages in fortune cookies.
Customers can relate and identify with each other
We specialize in groups and give them a large discount to eat in our restaurant.
4. Look For Downsides
Ask every pair to think (approximately 2 or 3 minutes) about the negative sides of their “Outrageous” idea. Challenge your team to come up with original points of view.
What are the drawbacks of the idea?
Again don’t let your list be too obvious.
- There will always be the same people in our restaurant.
- Customers might get upset about their damaged clothing.
- Customers might not want to order all day long.
- Our customers will smell after a while.
5. Look For Downside Alternatives
What are the disadvantages of the idea? How can we get rid of these disadvantages?
There will always be the same people in our restaurant.
We give loyal customers a discount for every new person they bring to the restaurant.
Customers might get upset about their damaged clothing
We offer a new service to our customers. A repair and tailor shop inside our restaurant. While you are enjoying dinner your suit is getting dry cleaned.
Customers might not want to order all day long
We create a bar in our restaurant where people can just relax and chill and don’t need to order food.
Our customers will smell after a while
The smell of fish might scare people away. We put other dishes besides fish on the menu.
As you can see one crazy suggestion can lead to many novel & feasible ideas. Do you think this simple exercise can help the people in your team to build upon unorthodox ideas? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment box below.
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