Tag: creative thinking

23
Jan

Think Like An LA Tourist: Slideluck LA

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At Oishii, we believe in philosophies that promote acting more than thinking. Over the years, we’ve come to the conclusion that actions in the world make us better thinkers. Thoughts don’t motivate us to move.

We’ve worked to embrace and build on this ideology through various hashtags — #WriteOutdoors and #ThinkLikeATourist — that immerse us in communities of art, design, writing and science. We like “dense” events where lots of people come together from different disciplines and industries.

Recently, we started off the year attending an event we think could work in Los Angeles: Slideluck. It’s already popular in New York, as well as in other cities around the world.

This past Saturday, Slideluck, which is part slideshow and part potluck, returned to the “Best” Coast for a night of food, fun, music, and art in Hollywood. Slideluck LA VII; joint-curated by Krista Martin, Photo Curator for American Apparel, and Michael Hawley, art collector and former President of the Photographic Arts Council, Los Angeles, found a home at Joan Scheckel’s The Space at 6608 Lexington. Walking into a hexagon-shaped corridor, we experienced a display of lights, images, and movement from perhaps an unexpected inclusive crowd over 300 strong.

At first sight, it looked like a scene-y underground hipster loft party, but a few more steps inside and we found ourselves in front of laughing young children of famous photographers ordering IPA’s for their dads, to fashion-forward elders telling us how gorgeous we are (sweet!), to our curious Uber driver/emerging singer-songwriter who asked if it was cool to participate. He didn’t want to just attend; he wanted to interact, which is exactly the community-building movement behind Slideluck LA. It’s a representation of our creative community in all of its beautiful colors, shapes and flavors. The event was a communal canvas built around a showcase of the photographers’ work and more importantly, provided a judgement- and pretentious-free environment, allowing for first-timers at an underground art scene to feel warmly welcomed.

Events like Slideluck are important for us because we know the value of immersion. Immersion and conversation keep us motivated, sharp and engaged. Scientists call these meetups “collisions” with purpose. Group interactions help people challenge their assumptions. Coming together, even if to listen to music and see art, increases the flow of information into your brain and stimulates neurons. If you discuss work, all the better. Most studies of innovation strongly suggest that talking about your work with others, even if informally, helps you move hunches or ideas beyond early stages of superficial thinking. A place called “initial biases” are where many people often stay, go out and talk to people. Dare yourself to think differently.

L-R: Loro Piana Interiors' West Coast Account Executive Caitlin Griffin & Oishii's Head of Business Development Carlos Penny

L-R: Loro Piana Interiors’ West Coast Account Executive Caitlin Griffin & Oishii’s Head of Business Development Carlos Penny

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19
Sep

Congratulations, You’re A Creative Strategist! Now What?

Attribution: Flickr: Tunisia-3433

Attribution: Flickr: Tunisia-3433

My former life in academia and my current one in branding have taught me everyone has the skill set within them to be what I call a creative strategist. I believe strategy is a creative skill, requiring our whole brains; the logic and rational working effortlessly with the non-verbal, passionate and the visual. A creative strategist knows how to use data, ethnography and trends to tell a story for clients. To talk about what’s going on in the world without vague platitudes. (Millennials want authenticity and honesty!) Creative strategy sets into motion a brand study or brand integration that is both granular and deep.

Creative Strategist: Person who uses several types of data and applies to a problem or project.

While we should all be strategists, the fact is our work environments and thinking habits get in our way.

In our work lives we must hit metrics, make deadlines and take back-to-back meetings at the office. Our days are consumed with finding ways for everyone to do more with fewer resources, money, people and time. We spend our waking working hours thinking small. And by that I mean we grow accustomed to solving operational problems rather than the big creative knotty ones. We don’t allow ourselves the time to contemplate a project with depth or rigor what I call, thinking big skills.

And thinking small isn’t necessarily bad.

It’s a necessary part of running a successful creative work environment. But, when thinking small preoccupies us and becomes a fixation, it diminishes the culture, business and eventually, the people around us. People start getting in the way of their own thinking and creative capabilities; they look to what others have done before them or try formulas. People begin to believe it simply takes too much energy and time to think big for clients. The work culture and individual habits form a dysfunctional quality, where changing demographics, consumer tastes and technological disruption become a blur of problems without solutions.

What is the relationship between strategy and creativity?

  • Some would say they have little in common. But I think they are more interconnected than many assume. Strategy involves combinatory thinking. Combinatory thinking looks to data, but to other sources disciplines and trends. You’ve got to read up, mix and match, and spend time listening, reading, doing and applying to creative work.
  • Creative Strategy uses a visual thinking toolkit. Visual thinking combines our imagination and drawing or visual techniques. A toolkit has exercises to stimulate ideas and take you out of your ordinary brain strengths. We tweeted about one such exercise: Sit in your chair and imagine the buildings behind you. What are people doing there? Go to the building behind the first building. What are people doing there? Write down notes and draw pictures.
  • The best strategy comes from operationalizing creativity into the office.  Tag on 15-minute work sessions after other less creative meetings. Research shows creative work sessions after “boring” meetings can spur divergent thinking, the fuel for creative work.
  • Strategists daydream. When tackling a creative problem, and after you’ve met with other people to collaborate, give yourself time to process the information. Creativity flows from the unconscious and once you’ve stuffed your brain with the food of data, trends, information, books and thinkers, let your unconscious have its way with the problem.
  • Creative Strategists have disciplined individual habits. As much as I’ve talked about unleashing your talent, the best work comes from a disciplined set of work habits. Work at the same time every day, produce visuals or writing with set goals, and fuel your imagination with quality books and movies.

How do you think big? I’d like to hear how these tips work for you!

— Kate Canada Obregon

 

05
Sep

Think Like A Tourist: Do You See or Notice?

Photo by opensource.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4639590640/

Photo by opensource.com
https://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4639590640/

This summer, we’ve been traveling on our “design pilgrimage” as we call it.

I brought several books on the trip with me to give structure to my thoughts and writing. One was Experiences in Visual Thinking by Robert H. McKim, the classic how-to manual for anyone who wants to sharpen his or her creative visual thinking skills.

These are the methods of approaching any problem or situation using subconscious and conscious types of thinking. Visual thinking is a multifaceted skill and approach to any problem we have to solve on any given day.

We’re all born with the ability to harness our imagination, and we think most of our waking lives, but as McKim sees it, schooling, habits, thinking patterns and work life get in the way. We think broadly and unproductively. We believe the way we think about one situation applies to most other problems or assignments.

When I was a university teaching assistant, we new teachers had several sessions of training to prepare us for working with students and the various ways people think and learn. Most academics are logical and linear thinkers, but that’s merely a slice of the learning personalities in the world.

In one particularly useful session, the trainer was a professor and researcher who used neuroscience in his teaching methods. He said that all of one’s thinking life could be reduced to patterns we used in the grocery store (before Amazon, obviously!). The way we thought and acted on our thoughts in the store was the organizational patterns or thinking blueprint we probably applied to everything else in our lives, including university assignments. Some people are spiral thinkers, he said, they go in the middle and work their way out, with or without a list. Others work from the sides going up and down the aisles.

He gave us this information as a way to help us teach and empathize with students. Everyone uses patterns in their thinking and we apply them to most aspects of our lives. Raising our awareness about the types of thinking, he wanted us to understand that just because someone doesn’t take what we think to be logical notes it doesn’t mean they’re not absorbing and using the lecture content meaningfully.

We approach our design problems in similar ways to our approach to the grocery store and McKim’s tool kit remains valuable for all of us visual solutions people.

The pivot for thinking takes place as we look at our world. Using McKim here, seeing is what most people do; perceiving is what most successful visual thinkers do.

What’s the difference between perceiving and seeing?

Seeing

Seeing is looking at the world and our surroundings as is. We use and apply thinking blueprint and go about our day solving problems or creating solutions. We look at an assignment or problem. We research what others say about it and come up with solutions. It’s practical, efficient and reliable. This is often called deductive thinking. It means you apply general observations about the world to particular problems.

But, seeing as a thinking tools is rarely innovative.

Perceiving

Perceiving, on the other hand, is active with multiple steps and involves all of what McKim calls “operations” in our brains. Here are some key facts about the process of perception:

  • Active and ‘down below.’ Let’s say you are given a creative brief with an assignment. Perceiving would involve looking at the problem, researching and talking to others. Perceiving problem solving means sitting with the assignment and walking away, shifting the process to ‘down below’ into the unconscious layers of brain activity, anfr letting the mind work through the assignment for some time without using the conscious mind.
  • Integrates past ideas. Perceiving blends the past with the new assignment. Let’s say your assignment involves coming up with new ways to drive interest in a company’s new product, say men’s socks. Because you’ve worked on many, many projects with the assignment of driving awareness, you know the tried-and-true steps. But wait, you’ve also seen stellar and creative work done in financial services lately that raised awareness about products, too. While not the same product, they had similar market problems and they tried x, y or z. Integrative thinking brings in other experiments to your problem and sees what works.
  • Connects dissimilar topics. Perceiving is making mental leaps and combining with other areas. Let’s say you have a passion for travel and you read lots about the best surfing in world, which you know is in far-flung places like Taghazout, Morocco, Bundaran, Ireland or Tofino, British Columbia. You know this topic, and you’ve stuffed lots of details in your brain over the years.This “stuff” comes in handy when you are thinking about travel and surf and your sock assignment. You’ve looked at the sales figures, the average consumer and you’ve got a stack in your drawer at home and the office. You realize that connecting the socks that fold easily can be found in the dark easily and are made of breathing micro-fibers with travel and these often unheard-of places could breathe new market life for the socks, and make the client very happy.

That’s perceiving — seeing the world in a new way. Utilizing your brain’s functions and harnessing your creative powers.

So what’s your take on the world around you? Do you see or perceive?

— Kate Canada Obregon

08
Aug

Anti-Social: When It’s Time to Step Away From Social Media

Image courtesy of http://rubiconn.com/

Image courtesy of http://rubiconn.com/

Recently, we touched upon the importance of giving yourself a break from social media as frequent usage is linked to lower productivity levels and even depression. But why is it so hard for us to disconnect?

While we know part of the reason is that gaining positive feedback on social media, such as likes and retweets, activates the area of the brain associated with pleasure, part of our problem may be rooted in the Industrial Revolution.

As the 19th Century economy took shape, machines introduced us to a world where quick, fast and scale were the marked steps to success. Soon, we started thinking of humans as machines, too. And as scientists studied the mind and body, they applied principles from mechanics and business together. Human habits, traits and personalities were “mechanical” including our brain’s workings.

Over the years, that has translated into a society where we no longer give ourselves permission to disconnect, treating an internet sabbatical as a luxury reserved for (some) vacations, while humbly bragging about our need to be tethered to our phones. We have trained ourselves to be always on and always available, often confusing our time spent online for productivity. In fact, as reported by Business Insider, Americans now spend more time on social media sites than any other online activity, including checking email, with 60% of that traffic coming from smartphones and tablets.

And considering the growing number of social media detox programs, from China’s more than 200 hardcore military-style boot camps to a Scottish Island social media-free experiment, taking extreme measures to break this addiction is becoming more and more popular.

And maybe we need it. According to the Badoo-produced study “Social Lives vs. Social Selves,” 39% of Americans spend more time socializing online than in person. While social media can be an incredibly useful tool for keeping up with clients and colleagues, it shouldn’t replace good, old-fashioned face-to-face interactions.

So, what can you do if your job doesn’t allow you to disconnect completely? Well, you can take babysteps.

Establish Social Media Free Time. Maybe it’s during your lunch break, or perhaps you go offline for an hour after dinner, but the more you schedule time to be off (or on) social media, the easier the habit will become to break.

Make Facebook-Free Zones. Maybe you don’t allow yourself to go online when you’re lying in bed or during your morning commute. Whatever part of your life provides you with the most zen space, make that area social-free.

Get Help. No, we’re not saying you’ve got to go to an island for a week, but if you really can’t help yourself, try installing an app or web blocker to help rid you of distractions.

And if all else fails, maybe it’s time to check out one of those boot camps after all.

 

01
Aug

It’s Summer: Daydream!

DaydreamSummer months are ideal occasions for creative ideation. As work colleagues go on holiday, and frenzied schedules relax, there are more chances for what I call unstructured creative work — ideation time without overly planned, organized and managed schedules. It’s the time to daydream, wander and to get bored. Yes, that’s right, get bored for a creative purpose.

Creativity — whether in the science, design or agency worlds — demands freedom to play and wander, and our over-scheduled and hectic daily routines don’t leave room for deep, creative work. What we know of as “aha” moments happen because you’ve just connected lots of seemingly unrelated dots that have been steeping in your unconscious over time. Think of it this way: Suddenly, the science exhibit you’re viewing brings to mind the Transformers movie you just saw and that blends with a song you heard a few weeks ago at a party. And, “aha,” seemingly out of nowhere, you came up with the perfect idea for tomorrow morning’s data visualization presentation.

That’s creativity. Taking seemingly unrelated things and combining them together to make something new. The creative process is a complex orchestration and neuroscientists are only beginning to map out the relationship between creativity and the unconscious. We do know that for the most creative and productive minds, incubation takes time and involves several steps and processes.

In a recent article in the Atlantic, researcher Nancy Andreasen studied the most “prolific” writers to see if she could see patterns and processes in highly productive minds. Andreasen found that the most productive creatives ideate, prepare and incubate. In other words, they work, ponder and engage their curiosity and produce. They’ve got room to roam and they use it cleverly.

But, as we understand from experience, the unconscious process and its strengths don’t always fit into standardized work schedules, and, in fact, many people and companies hold negative opinions, judgments and associations with daydreaming, the vital element in the creative incubation process. Sometimes, people are judged as unproductive or lazy when they don’t seem to be hitting a mark; when they aren’t relentlessly “producing” heaps of “things.”

That’s because we live in a culture that defines creativity by metrics and outputs. Fortunately, this notion is changing as pioneers of the unconscious, like neuroscientist Scott Barry Kaufman, are studying the activities of the brain where creativity emerges, and in the process, are challenging conventional notions about daydreaming and slackers who want to take a nap after lunch.

But even as science helps to evolve our understanding and relationship with our generative powers of innovation, convergent thinking and originality is elusive. In the abstract, we love it, admire it and try to fit it into schedules. But in the practical sense, sometimes we just have to give ourselves a little flexibility to go off schedule and zone out with our thoughts for a while. So, take advantage of the long warm days and empty quiet offices, and give yourself some space to ruminate.

It’s summer. Go daydream!

18
Jul

Vacation/Vocation: 5 Tips to Bring Back from Your Summer Break

Image courtesy of bookhangoversbb.blogspot.com

Image courtesy of bookhangoversbb.blogspot.com

Summer is in full swing, and that’s got us thinking about beaches and barbecues and made us realize how differently we approach our time off than we do our daily work lives. And maybe we shouldn’t. Whether you’ve already enjoyed a nice long break, are planning a two-week getaway or just a weekend staycation, there are plenty of ways we approach our time off that would be beneficial to bring back to the office. Here’s a look at five ways you can bring your vacation mindset back to the workplace and make it work for you.

1. Digital Detox

According to a recent research project by IAB Real View, 52% of people say they prefer to check their smartphones during downtime rather than be left alone with their thoughts. This figure might sound low for those of us accustomed to reaching for our phones every time we break away from our laptops, but think about the last time you went on vacation. You probably didn’t spend the entire time with your face buried in Facebook. Studies have shown that high social media usage, especially time spent on Facebook, is linked with lower life satisfaction and productivity loss. Need an extra hand weaning yourself off the “Likes”? Sites like 99 Days of Freedom offer a little extra encouragement and structure for those looking to keep their selfies to themselves.

2. Reconnect with Colleagues

Vacation dinners call to mind long, conversation-fueled feasts over good bottles of wine with family and friends. Why not bring that mindset back to the boardroom? No, we’re not saying get tipsy with your CFO, but why not catch up with one of your colleagues over coffee or take your mentor out to a good meal? Researchers recently discovered that our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, actually gets a boost of the “love hormone” oxytocin when they share a meal. Plus, getting out of the office environment, and, if you’re following step 1, leaving your phone in your pocket or purse, allows you to give the other person your undivided attention, helping to force or strengthen important workplace bonds.

3. Seek Out Advice

We’ve looked at the benefits of approaching your own city as an outsider in our Think Like a Tourist series, but going on vacation is a chance to see it in action. When we’re visiting another city, we tend to take recommendations and ask the advice of others; in fact, we will seek it out. Even if we’ve been to a place before, we want a local’s perspective. So, why not do this in your daily life as well? Ask your art director where she’s getting her latest inspiration, or check in with your business development rep to get his insight on a new client. Getting out of your comfort zone can help you see the world, and maybe even do your job, through a new, exciting lens.

4. Recharge Your Mind, Body and Soul

Whether it’s booking a massage or sitting by the beach to read a good book, when we’re on vacation, we always seem to take time for ourselves, doing mood-boosting and stress-relieving activities. We’ve previously talked about how mindful thinking and meditation can give you a cognitive workout and make you a better multi-tasker, but even just taking a 15-minute break to walk outside and get some sunshine can help you better focus on work.

5. The Endless Vacation Day

Doesn’t it seem like we often do more in one day on a vacation than in a week back home? If you’re in another city or country and don’t know when (or if) you’ll be returning, suddenly even the most notorious procrastinators and worst planners are able to prioritize what they really want to see and do to make the day count. Part of this is because negative feelings or perceptions of situations can wipe out our self-control and ability to think and plan clearly. By focusing on things that are important to us, we’re better able to tackle that task, thus boosting our mood to start the next. So, next time you’re feeling like you can’t get it all done, imagine your vacation self and pick the one, two or three most important tasks for you to do today and focus on those.

Just as there are endless ways to spend your vacation, there are endless ways to bring what you’ve learned back home with you. What are your favorite ways to keep your vacation mindset for the rest of the year?

 

27
May

Think Like A Freaky Tourist

Think Like A FreakA few nights ago, we enjoyed taking in the new Freakonomics book with authors Steven Levit and Stephen Dubner.  The latest incarnation of their Freaky franchise, Think Like a Freak debuts this week at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list. For us in the creative industries, the popularity of thinking differently is a welcome addition to our thinking toolkit.

With their usual witticism and insight, Levit and Dubner offer more observations into the ways we rely on habits and unconscious incentives when making decisions and solving problems. Often we don’t critically think through our own thinking process, say Levit and Dubner. We don’t recognize our selfish motives when thinking and taking action; we shy away from asking for help and we stand on the shoulders of conventional wisdom to solve problems.

As we continue our Think Like A Tourist series, I want to bring an older voice into our ongoing conversation about creativity, Mr. George Orwell.

Orwell was a writer obsessed with clear thinking and writing. In his famous essay Politics and the English Language, Orwell took issue with jargon and complex writing styles. He disliked glossy or shimmery writing, because as he saw it, such writing lacked lucid thinking. In Politics and the English Language, he pressed writers to write less and think more. He wanted writers as artists to take a step outside their craft and evaluate how they make art. In this way, Orwell wasn’t necessarily interested in helping writers become great writers so much as he wanted writers and artists to be rigorous thinkers. As he rightly saw it, writers and artists have responsibilities to their craft and audiences. Readers need to read something that challenges their habits and stretches their ways of looking at the world. He wanted audiences and writers to use their minds and exceed each other’s expectations.

Orwell’s aspirations are applicable for us in the creative industries. Our work lives are framed by trends, reports, data, thought leadership, research findings, insights and even the five-paragraph executive summary. These pieces of conventional wisdom are the beacons of our craft, giving direction to our solutions and shaping the direction for our clients’ next launch.

More than thinking like a freak, Orwell reminds us to always take a few steps back before we write, draw and do. Pay attention to the words we use, the phrases we toss about in meetings, and the goals we give our teams.

Who feeds you the language, phrases, terms and conventional wisdom everyday?

 

12
May

Think Like A Tourist Series: Think Like A Situationist

Situationist

Creation is a radical act. Whether you create ideas, services or products, all of us who lead and guide creators are obliged to see the world differently every day.

And we generate ideas through a combination of processes and our neuro-circuitry; our mind’s abilities and internal ways of thinking. Think of it as the merging of our work environment, culture and peers with our brain’s capabilities. Whether we are charged with realizing the strategic brand direction or an app or product launch, we must create and realize something new. We’d like to think the entire process is within our control, but it isn’t. Creativity is not an amorphous activity out of our reach, either.

Philosopher and avant-garde cultural critic Raoul Vaneigem observed that creativity is often the obedient offspring to business, productivity and typical measurements of success. Vaneigem was one of the founders of the Situationist movement, a French group of artists, poets and philosophers who looked to art and specifically, the avant-garde movements to instigate societal change. Vaneigem and his fellow artists believed art and art techniques could make people see the world in new ways, just as they learned to represent reality with point on the brush, a dabble of paint or unfamiliar lines. For our purposes, Vaneigem‘s observations are useful because he calls out the reviving power of creative thinking. He believed that art could not be contained or utilized in commercial activities because artists’ contributions outweighed measurement. As he saw it, “you can’t limit the power of bedlam in the logical ‘spin cycle’ of work-a-day world.”  And while we know business and art are mutually dependent upon each other — deeply intertwined even — it’s worth bearing in mind his elegiac defense of creative minds as the driver of success, growth and innovation.

Vaneigem wanted us to always be vigilant to the ways we leaders either judge quickly or dismiss the radical new idea, its creator and his/her new way of looking at things. Following his way of thinking like a Situationist can awaken a feeling of liberation and adventure, which is crucial to the work that we do within the creative industries.

 

Image courtesy of Brictz.com


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