This Is How You Achieve Breakthrough Creativity

December 21, 2011 Business and Management no comments

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Can creativity ever be managed? Shouldn’t it be a spontaneous process that happens when you suddenly encounter a flash of brilliance?

How can you be creative if you are working in a role that undervalues creativity, like a lawyer, accountant or a vehicle mechanic?

Well, according to Josh Linkner, CEO of ePrize, anybody in any profession can be creative.

And it doesn’t just happen by accident.

In his book Disciplined Dreaming, the business innovator cum jazz musician (wow!) proposed that creativity isn’t born but made.

Any organisation can be a creative one so long as it applied his five step process to strengthen it’s “creative chops”. Let’s go through each of these steps.

Step 1: Ask

The first crucial step in any creative endeavour is to identify and clearly define your specific Creativity Challenge. This would be the creative project that you and your team are appointed to handle.

During the process, learn how curiosity and awareness can be fostered and driven in your team. A key part of this step lies in the development of a Creativity Brief that articulates and directs your team’s efforts.

Step 2: Prepare

Your next step is to develop the mental and physical attributes necessary for the creative process.

This includes the clearing of mental and emotional hurdles to creativity, creating a physical environment that is positioned for maximum creative output, and building a supportive culture.

As the creative leader, you need to get everybody on board and to be comfortable in sharing their ideas, thoughts and feelings freely with the rest.

Step 3: Discover

This stage looks at how creative ideas could be bubbled to the surface through concepts like the Borrowed Idea, Inflection Points, Upside Down, and patterns to trigger your team’s imagination (read this book summary to learn what these techniques are).

The main thing here is to elicit the contributions from every one of your members. These are then used as “ingredients” for the next stage of creative brainstorming.

Step 4: Ignite

The real act of generating ideas is seen during this step, where the process of mixing and blending the earlier ideas is done.

Here you can employ all kinds of brainstorming techniques to elicit and draw out inputs from your team. They include the forming of Imbizo groups, the Hot Potato and the Wrong Answer.

These preliminary concepts are then elaborated into fully formed ideas with techniques like Edge Storming, RoleStorming (imagine if you’re Steve Jobs, what would he say?) and Brain Writing.

You can find all of these examples and more in this blog post here.

Step 5: Launch

In the final stage, your analytical left brain is reconnected with your creative right brain.

Here, your role is to look at tasks like selecting the best ideas, developing KPIs for measuring them, and building an action plan to realise them in a fruitful and productive manner. This may also include the process of securing buy-in from other departments in order to see your creative project into fruition.

Driving Curiosity and Awareness

To bring the creativity process to life, Linkner sprinkled lots of useful tips and methods in the book.

In the section on Driving Curiosity and Awareness, for example, we are told to ask the three magic questions (Why? What if? What not?), adopt a beginner’s mind, and use a big box filled with anything and everything that could lead to inspiration – photos, magazine articles, songs, toys etc.

7 Rules of Creative Cultures

In chapter 5, we are also taught the seven rules of creative cultures, namely:

  1. Fuel passion
  2. Celebrate ideas
  3. Foster autonomy
  4. Encourage courage
  5. Fail forward
  6. Think small
  7. Maximize diversity

I liked how these simple yet fundamental concepts could work in virtually any organisation large or small.

Useful Techniques on Ideation

In my opinion, the most useful part of the book is the section on ideation (Ignite).

Here, Linkner provided useful tips like the Eight Commandments of Ideation. These are namely…

  1. Thou Shall Not Judge
  2. Thou Shall Not Comment
  3. Thou Shall Not Edit
  4. Thou Shall Not Execute
  5. Thou Shall Not Worry
  6. Thou Shall Not Look Backwards
  7. Thou Shall Not Lose Focus
  8. Thou Shall Not Sap Energy

We are also taught lots of useful techniques on brainstorming that we can deploy with our teams.

I particularly like the method created by Alex Osborn with the acronym SCAMPER, ie Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Magnify or minimise, Put to other use, Eliminate, Rearrange or reverse.

Exemplars of Creativity

To strengthen his key thesis, Linkner cited numerous examples of companies and individuals which have embraced creativity.

They include Pixar, Cold Stone Creamery, ZipCar, Amazon, Quicken Loans, Tony Robbins, Intel and many more.

Many of these stories were fascinating.  For example, we learned that Nintendo opted to build a device with a better game experience (Wii) rather than deliver the best graphics and sound to compete with Sony’s Playstation and Microsoft’s XBox (this was called the Upside Down concept of turning a problem around).


Compellingly written with lots of useful anecdotes and ideas, Disciplined Dreaming provides a good way to dive into the world of ideation, imagineering, and creative strategising.

Pick this book up if you’re looking to sweep away the cobwebs of run-of-the-mill business strategies and are game to turbo-charge your creativity processes.

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.

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