Depending on whether your glass is half full or half empty, it’s easy it get into either a groove or a rut with your content. This week we’re shaking that off. Here’s how you can shift your mindset to generate new ideas, change your tone, or just spice things up a bit.
Change Your Perspective
Think Like A Child
A study buy North Dakota State University found that children are exponentially more creative than adults. Two groups of adults were given a series of tests, but the first group was told to think like a seven year old. Just the act of being told to think like a child made the second group score higher on creativity tests and come up with more ideas to problems.
You and I see paper clips above, but children see monkey bars for dust bunnies, grappling hooks for their Legos, and a pocket protectors for their teddy bears. Try approaching a concept or product the way children would, even if it feels silly at first, you might walk a way with a new appreciation for an old idea.
Think Like An Annoying Child
Have you ever had a kid follow you around asking “because why?” over and over again? Try that during ideation. Keep asking “because why?” when thinking about a topic or product. You’ll quickly come up with more answers and go deeper than you have before.
Example: our client wants us to create a recycling campaign. Why? So there’s less trash in the ocean. Why? So the sea turtles don’t eat it. Why? So they won’t die. Why? So they can have cute sea turtle babies. You get the point. Rather than stopping at the first bus stop and creating a campaign around less trash in the ocean, the recycling campaign evolves into saving the sea turtle babies.
Dave Snyder’s article, “How to Use Curation Reports to Get Women,” doesn’t actually offer tools to pick up chicks. It does however, show how using the tools makes you more knowledgable about your social shares, and ladies like smart guys. Dave kept asking “and then what?” until he reached the conclusion that business success has the end result of a better love life.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Think Like You
Look at your sales process and everyone who benefits from your product. You don’t have to constantly present information to the client as yourself. Consider the customer’s perspective – or your customers’ customers if you’re B2B.
Dog food commercials are usually written out as a narrator talking to consumer and follow a similar formula, “if you love your dog then feed him or her our brand of food.” However, this Beneful ad takes the perspective of the dog:
Something that’s normal and mundane to us (a tennis ball) is enrapturing to the dog. This fresh perspective makes viewers perceive playing fetch as something exciting and new.
By changing up your mindset away from a marketer offering a product – even if you’re changing it to become a little kid or a dog or a dust bunny – you can see old ideas and concepts in new ways.
Make it a Game
If you ever played I Spy online – or heaven forbid: owned the books – you’re familiar with the excitement and frustration of finding the objects hidden throughout the picture. More often than not, you pour over the page multiple times until you realize that the bottle cap you were looking for the entire time was hidden in the bag of buttons. When you play this game you question every object and pour over every detail to find all of the objects. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could do that at work?
Step Away From Work
Whenever we’re rallying a group of people together for a brainstorming meeting we invite them with the phrase, “would you like to come play with us?” This small phrase takes the pressure off of people to think of ideas and relaxes the brain. As a result, we get a lot more content ideas than if we made ideation an assignment.
While not every task at work can be turned into a game (don’t think of it as a tax audit, think of it as a scavenger hunt.) setting up challenges and competitions is a quick way to motivate employees. If there’s the right incentive – from bragging rights to bonuses – people will start to get creative to find solutions, strategies, and ideas.
Expand Your Horizons
Talk to People
Harness your coworkers, friends, and your own personal experiences to make comparisons between different abstract concepts. Is your next door neighbor a history buff? Is your significant a marine biologist? Listen and learn about what they’re interested in, you’ll be surprised by what small fact inspires you to write an entire article.
Jay York came in one morning after learning about the Oxpecker, a small bird in the African Savanna. This bird became the inspiration an article about symbiosis on the Internet. The more you learn about the world, the more sources for inspiration you can pull from.
Remember when you used to take apart the remote control or the toaster, just to see what was inside? Why don’t you break your household appliances anymore?
When you tinker with the entire process or product and see how each small bit that makes up a big picture, you can start to gain respect for the little things.
Example: A tech blogger who is tired of writing about new apps and tools for the iPhone can break it into little pieces — metaphorically. He or she can talk about the Gorilla glass that it’s made out of or the accelerometer that makes the screen turn side to side.
Not only can this be a source of inspiration for content, it can help break down a system to find ways to make it more effective. If there’s a communication breakdown or flaw in the process, taking it apart step by step is a great way to find ways to improve.
Articles that compare two abstract thoughts are often popular to read and share. They take a difficult concept and compare it to something simple that everyone understands. Seth Godin‘s book purple cow takes ideas like news ideas and transforming your business and puts it in physical terms that most people can understand. Most people have seen cows at some point in their lives, or can relate the ideas to another animal. Thinking X is like Y helps audiences wrap their heads around intangible ideas.
Set the Mood
Pop in Your Headphones
Almost every little kid did the science experiment where they play different types of music to plants to see if they grow. Try that with your writing. Pop in classical music and see if it becomes easier or harder for you to write. Turn up the rock music if you need to write with an angry tone, or break out the techno if you’re on a deadline.
Obviously you’re music preferences dictate the choices made during this process, but the right song or soundtrack could inspire you to add the right amount of feeling to your writing.
Anger can be a strong motivator to write. The fire and passion of being annoyed and frustrated can create some of the best phrases a writer ever thinks of. Similarly, pulling from sadness, joy and love can turn mundane blog articles into pieces of art.
Try to channel whatever emotion you want to use in your writing, so you genuinely feel it as you start typing. Watch that one commercial that always makes you cry, and then write with a sad tone. Remember, if you get carried away, you can always edit it later.
Leave Your Comfort Behind
All of these tactics are meant to break you out of your typical writing bubble. Just by changing up your music choice or thinking like a kid can have dramatic results in your ideation and business strategy. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone, you never know what ideas lie waiting in the abyss.