Updated: Aug 25, 2021
Everybody has a secret super power, creative thinking. Activate parts of your brain that will allow you to overcome obstacles and see business or personal opportunities that you may have missed. Use the concepts that both Apple designers and google engineers use to develop new processes and products.
Founder and CEO of Just a Squiggle, Camilla Kaul's Creative Thinking Hacks that allow you to uncap your secret super power and force connections, develop new ideas, and rewrite how your brain process problems.
At some point in history the rules and assumptions we follow were created, such as, humans cannot fly. People like DaVinci or the Wright brothers revolutionized that, provoked their brains, and broke those rules. This is the type of mentality that we need to innovate because the way, the norms, and the rules that applied in the past will not apply in the future.
The reality is that our brains are brilliant at making assumptions, connections, and helping to keep us safe: that means that our brain thinks of a lot of shortcuts. It's fantastic that the brain works this way because it's a machine that keeps you safe. It's a machine that helps you iterate really quickly; it's a machine that is very adaptable. The problem is that as we create more experiences and knowledge, the brain starts creating shortcuts, getting a little bit lazy, and the brain reverts to the bulk of ideas that it has always had. Therefore, we always think the same thoughts we have always thought. What if we could actually tell our brain, “you know what, today's a day in which you are going to be thinking thoughts you've never thought before.” That's how we started provoking our brains: we want to get it out of the shortcuts mode.
Creative Thinking Hack #1
My first preferred hack is called Force Connections. This is going to help your brain activate differently and form new concepts. You can see this in many ways: Apple does it, Google does it. Many of the inventions that we have right now are a result of a forced connection. By that, I mean that we ask our brain to connect two things that don’t seem to go together by nature. To begin to create force connections, we have first to identify our problem. What is it that we're trying to achieve? What is it that we're trying to solve?
Here’s an example: a couple of months ago, I struggled to figure out how to position creative thinking as a must, something that everyone has to have? Something that is absolutely critical for the evolution of your business, as it will give you a competitive advantage. I was really struggling to figure out an end goal that would help me position this in a simple yet powerful way. To do so, I forced that connection. I pulled the statement out, and I wrote it down on a piece of paper: how do I position creative thinking in a novel yet powerful, simple way? The second thing, pick a random object. Go to Google and say, "give me an object," and see what happens, or open a magazine and point to one specific word. We're going to use that object to force a connection. In this case, the object that I found was broccoli. Once you have your specific object, list all of the things that that object stands for––all of the benefits, all of the characteristics of that specific object. In my case, that list started something like this: broccoli provides vitamins, it helps me grow, it's healthy, it's everything that you need in terms of energy for the day. That began a list of interesting concepts about what broccoli could do for me.
The same thing applies to you. Once you find an object, you can make a connection between your problem and that object. In my case, if my problem was how to position creative thinking in a way that was powerful yet simple, I would start thinking about how broccoli would help me do that. I started connecting ideas; for example, creative thinking is your daily dose of food for your brain, creative thinking is the vitamins you need every day to think differently and grow your business.
Things like that started coming out of my mind just because I made the connection between a random object and my actual problem. Once you do this, you’ve activated parts of your brain that are generally not used to working together. You're asking your brain to think about your business, for example, or your current problem, and map it out to something so random, like broccoli. This is a time for you to do the same thing. I would like for you to take a piece of paper and first write a problem statement. What are you trying to accomplish? Second, pick a random object, any object that you can think of, anything you can pick up in your house, anything that you can look at through your window or at your seat. Third, make a list of characteristics, attributes of that specific object. Finally, make a connection. Try to figure it out––how do you solve your problem using that specific object? Have fun with it. This is the beauty of creative thinking. It should feel light in nature. It should feel easy to do. Give it a try, do this at your own pace. Give yourself a chance to experiment with this technique.
Creative Thinking Hack #2
Our second technique is called the revolution technique. A lot of the inventions that we see today came from the revolution technique. I'll explain why: the revolution technique is a provocation for your brain. It's going to help you think thoughts that you haven't thought of before because it's going to force you to ask questions that are out of the ordinary. The first thing that you have to do is to list all your rules and assumptions that you have about a problem––everything that has to do with the way that it's supposed to happen, or the situation that you're trying to find a solution for. After you have listed all the rules and assumptions about the situation, you're going to challenge the rule with three simple questions. First, what if we do something weird? Second, What if we exaggerate one of those rules? Third, what if we do the opposite of the rule? This is going to start generating a list of different types of thought, that one usually doesn’t think. When you're asked to come up with an idea, your brain goes into this shortcut mode that I mentioned. This is a way to get you out of that shortcut mode: you're not going to go to the bulk of experiences, you’re not going to go to the last thing that you did. You're actually going to provoke your brain and wire it to think differently and think about situations and scenarios that are not typical to you.
I'll give you an example. I run a session with one of my clients in New York City, and we were thinking about how to create a new bar experience in the city. If you know anything about New York City, you know that there's every single possible bar invented. There are so many concepts already out there. We sat down and said, "we want to do something different." The way for us to start thinking about it was to provoke our brains with this technique. We said, let's first list all of the rules and assumptions about bars. Bars are loud; they open at night, they sell alcohol, they have a bouncer...and that's a general understanding of what a bar is. Now let's challenge our rules and assumptions with those three powerful questions.
What if we do something weird?
What if we do the opposite of a rule?
What if we exaggerate a rule?
So, in this case, what if we do something weird? Instead of being on a normal street, what if we put the bar inside a library? What if we exaggerate the rule? Instead of being only open at night, it's going to be open 24/7. What if we do the opposite of the rule? Instead of having a bouncer at the door, what if we have a librarian at the door? In the end, this generated a list of possible ideas. This doesn't mean that it's the idea that you're going to go with, but it has started provoking thoughts and concepts that you would not originally think of because we're not used to asking ourselves these types of questions. By the end, we ended with a concept of a new bar experience in New York City: inside the New York City Library, open 24/7, only if you can quote a book at the entrance.
This is the second technique that helps you provoke your brain and emerge from the shortcut mode. Why do I say that a lot of inventions come out of this? Because, somewhere, at some time in history, the rules and assumptions we follow were created, for example, humans cannot fly. Somewhere else, at some time, people like DaVinci or the Wright brothers revolutionized that, provoked their brains, and broke those rules. That's exactly how we have inventions like airplanes. Why is it that we cannot fly? And this is the type of mentality that we need to innovate. This is the thinking that we need now more than ever because the way, the norms, and the rules that applied in the past will probably not apply in the future.