We Wonder

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An Insight About Insights

"‘Insight’; another tricky bastard in our frustratingly word-reliant industry. The nice chaps from YCC were in Poke the other night talking about insights. Sadly I arrived only to hear the closing applause, but I’ve been thinking about insights and have something hopefully worthy of a post:

What I don’t like about ‘insights’ is the sensationalist expectation that they have to appear in a flash of light and make everyone’s trousers fall down. Some people questionwhether they even exist. And they have a point.

For me, insights (let’s assume they do exist for a moment) are ‘true, but new’. They are based on observations, but observations that provide a fresh (sometimes trouser-removing) perspective on something. Importantly, not all situations require a dramatic change of perspective. Sometimes the smart thing to do is already apparent. When it is, doing a more exciting but less valuable thing is just a bit silly.

But we love the Eureka insights don’t we. Here are a couple of my favourites:

When Nintendo launched the Wii, they had to contend with Playstation and its vastly superior graphics and processing speed. Their insight was “the action happens off the screen”. Nice.

When Dixons.co.uk attempted to take on the big boys, they (M&C Saatchi) realised that they didn’t need to compete on everything. People tended to shop around before buying, so John Lewis’ helpful assistants could also help Dixon customers, so long as they came to Dixons to buy afterwards. This insight led to this famous work and the line “Dixons, The last place you should go.”

In Campaign this week, Russell Davies shared a lovely ‘insight’ from Mark Sorrell. As liberating as it is simple, he proposes that people are wrongly referring to mobiles, laptops and tablets as the ‘second screen’ to television. He observes that these devices absorb more of our attention on the sofa and that it is the TVs that barks on ‘in the background’. I.e. It is television that is our second screen. True, but new. A simple observation that completely rewires how you might think about a dual-screen strategy.

Something occurred to me when I read this last insight. 1. Insights are most exciting/dramatic when we’ve previously been looking at the wrong thing. 2. So caught up are we in sensationalising our industry and our accomplishments, we have completely failed to realise that we’re looking at insights wrongly as well. So here’s an insight about insights:

Insights do not elevate us to a higher plane. They fix our stupidity.

It’s well-documented that our brains are pattern-defining tools. We think we understand the world because we repeatedly reaffirm our misconceptions until they’re thoroughly hard-wired. When people arrive with ‘insights’, what they’re really doing is unpicking our ignorant misunderstandings and giving us a proper look at things.

Does any of this really matter? It’s just semantics, isn’t it? Yes. But semantics define how we see the world. And the more time you spend convincing yourself that you’ve just solved the secrets to the Universe, the less you will think to scrutinise your existing understanding, which is something we should all do constantly. Less sexy, but far more useful.

Jez kindly tweeted this post and queried about where/how insight informs creativity.  The answer is somewhat buried in the above, so I’ll clarify my pov: The brain is built to define patterns of understanding. It is these patterns that prevent creativity, because our brains tell us everything is as it seems. By Edward De Bono’s definition, ‘creativity’ is literally the act of breaking from these patterns (and in the process our cognitive lethargy). An insight that rewires the way we see something becomes the first creative act; the catalyst that leads to new patterns of thought. I agree with Michael, below, that it doesn’t really matter what you call it, or when ‘strategy’ turns into ‘creative’. I would break it all down as follows:

1. Acknowledge that our current understanding of anything is based on patterns of thought defined in the past
2. Fix this ignorance by scrutinising what we think we know (literally escape from uninspiring, established patterns of thought)
3. Use these new thought patterns to fuel creative alternative ideas

This is all getting a bit heavy. I’m going to have a cup of tea.”

by Andy Whitlock

The Creative Personality: Ten paradoxical traits of the creative personality

1. Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they’re also often quiet and at rest.

2. Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time. 

3. Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility. 

4. Creative people alternate between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality. 

5. Creative people trend to be both extroverted and introverted. 

6. Creative people are humble and proud at the same time. 

7. Creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping. 

8. Creative people are both rebellious and conservative. 

9. Most creative people are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well. 

10. Creative people’s openness and sensitivity often exposes them to suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment. 

Read the full article here     by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

77 Ways To Come Up With An IDEA

1. Zoom in and out extremely on your subject in your mind
2. Take up the perspective of an ant and a bird
3. Look at your subject as if you were a priest / astronaut / vampire / prostitute
4. Examine your subject wearing pink glasses
5. Lie down on the floor
6. Hold your breath for 30 seconds
7. Put the company name behind bars
8. Write the company name SMS style
9. Curl up in your chair
10. Hyperventilate
11. Put the company name under-water
12. Imagine your subject glowing / radiating heat
13. Talk like Luke Skywalker
14. Write the company name on a bun
15. Write down 21 objects that the company’s name remind you
16. Draw something for 60 seconds without lifting your pencil from the paper
17. Try not to blink for 60 seconds
18. Imagine shaving your eyebrows
19. Look at the ground for 60 seconds
20. Embrace yourself
21. Talk like a baby
22. Put something in your mouth and say the company name
23. Drink 2 glasses of water in one go
24. Write the company name on a tissue and wet it
25. Spend 20 minutes to come up with 20 ideas over a white sheet of paper
26. Turn on the music to the max
27. Take a leak / shower
28. Do 10 pushups (or at least try)
29. Scream: “I’m hungry!”
30. Pretend you’re Neil French
31. Act like Marilyn Monroe
32. Open the dictionary on a random page and read the first entry
33. Pet your dog or something
34. Take a picture of yourself
35. Put earplugs in your ear
36. Sharpen your pencils
37. Take off your shoes
38. Look at the sky for 60 seconds
39. Pinch your nose and talk
40. Take off your socks and walk
41. Imagine your subject matter frozen if you can hold something cold
42. Count your money in your valet
43. Kick back and daydream
44. Play with a kid, a dog or a toy
45. Eat sweets
46. Browse the net with StumbleUpon
47. Act gay (or straight if you’re gay)
48. Tidy up your office
49. Smell a flower or tea leafs
50. Wet your hair
51. Floss your teeth
52. Pinch yourself
53. Put something over yourself
54. Take off your shirt
55. Pretend playing golf
56. Pretend playing basketball
57. Kiss a lucky symbol
58. Blow soap bubbles or bubble gum
59. Make a prank call
60. Borrow an inexpensive object without asking
61. Draw a face on your finger
62. Wear something strange
63. Look at clouds and imagine there is a message
64. Count back from 27
65. Raise your both arms for 60 seconds
66. Do an air guitar solo or pretend playing the piano
67. Put chocolate to your mouth and resist the temptation to eat it
68. Shake your head
69. Pray like a ninja
70. Look out of the window and stare at one object for 30 seconds
71. Make a paper plane
72. Think about your subject as if it was made for the super rich
73. Type random characters and read it as if it was a secret code
74. Come up with 5 ridiculously lousy ideas
75. Think of a matching car for your product or service
76. Draw your client Dilbert style
77. Just close your eyes and relax

via Creativebits

“Creativity means finding most of what is deemed ‘normal’ fairly remarkable.”

Alain de Botton


The title page in an Andy Warhol calendar. Great poster!


The title page in an Andy Warhol calendar. Great poster!

(via simpld)