Unpredictable, unconventional and playful

"Let’s be honest. With the creative process, we all love to make it up as we go along. How boring agency life would be otherwise and we’d all be off doing something more, well, creative. But even though there are no rules for having great ideas, a bunch of good tools really do help. We all have our favourites, so here’s one of mine.

"Lots of focus is put on the ideas generating part of the creative process, but how you get started is as important as how you get ideas. Here’s a little five-minute exercise that should give the dreaded warm-up a good name again. It’ll make you smile, I guarantee..."

Sorry, no. Yes and…

"Unpredictable, unconventional and playful. This is the mindset common to all the most creative people. So get warmed up for some good ideas by being as playful and stupid as you can. It takes a little group to do this or it’s a bit weird, but with a bunch of you the effect is immediate and uplifting. It’s a classic improvisation technique. Here’s how it works..."

1. Get into pairs.

2. First comes ‘Sorry, no.’ One person in each pair asks the other a simple question like ‘Shall we go to the cinema tonight?’ and the other replies ‘Sorry, no…’ and gives some lame excuse as to why they don’t want to. Movies give them a headache. They need to feed their hamster. They can’t be arsed. After a few moments it’s all over. Negativity wins. This is how the real world tends to work and it kills creativity.

3. Now, in the same pairs, one person asks the same question but this time the other person replies ‘Yes, and…’ and adds something to the idea. Ridiculous, improbable and often inappropriate. Anything goes, basically. Then the other person replies by adding something else.

4. Keep passing it back and forth. No matter how stupid it gets. This time the whole dynamic is different. There’s a glorious hubbub as everybody’s making up stuff out of nothing.

5. Get people to say where they got to – you’ll be delighted how far an idea can travel so quickly. But it’s not where you get to that matters, it’s what you’re doing along the way.

6. The most important part is this: every single person, every single time, is laughing. Their minds are in 100% playful mode. And there is no better way to shake off the cobwebs of seriousness and get warmed up for some creative thinking.

7. So, later on in the creative process when your brain is trying to say ‘Sorry, no’ to you as you have ideas, shoot right back with a bit of ‘Yes, and…’

Published in Cannes Lions