Sunday, March 24, 2013

Take A Creativity Time...In?

The experience is all too familiar: As most people when they get creative ideas, and they will often say "in the shower" or "when I'm dozing off to sleep".  I often hear people complain "I had the best idea as I was drifting off to sleep but I can't remember it"! Have you ever wondered why so many people share this phenomenon? 

Think about the similar circumstances that each of these situations share: You aren't distracted by other "mentally demanding" activities.  You're "forced" to limit your attention to more "inside time".  Your body is (generally speaking) on "auto-pilot" and your brain continues to hum away - coming up with those fantastic ideas hidden away inside your mind.

So, what can you do to consistently leverage this insight to make the most of those creative and innovative ideas?  Schedule - by design - opportunities to recreate those situations each and every day!

Here is a popular approach that Disney Imagineer colleagues of mine do:
  1. Block out a time of day that allowed for flexibility afterwards (assuming you were going to have inspiring ideas you will want to implement immediately)
  2. Purposefully make recording options available (written materials, recording equipment, etc.)
  3. Minimize distractions for 15-30 minutes and limit your senses (shut eyes, put on headphones with no music/exterior sounds, sit in a comfortable chair without moving, etc.)
  4. Record any thoughts you have, then immediately return to your "Time In" session (as in "spending time IN your thoughts") until you feel like you're finished
  5. Stay in your "Creativity Cocoon" for another 10 minutes (for some reason, you always get the juiciest ideas after you think you're done)
You can also set the stage to capture those common situations - like putting a notepad/pen by your bedside, or outside your shower...or anyplace else you find that you have creative thoughts arise.  (As my grandmother used to say: "The best memory is at the end of a short pencil".)

Once you've successfully bubbled up some fresh new creative ideas, your job is to begin putting those ideas to good use, so it evolves form creativity to innovation.  One way to accomplish this is to share the ideas with trusted colleagues who can partner with you to grow/build your amazing new ideas.

Regardless, you can't implement unless you capture the idea.  And that spark of an idea won't capture itself - you have to prepare in advance.  What creative ways can you come up with to capture your best creative thought?  It only takes one amazing idea to lead to the breakthrough that you've been hoping for all your life.

Think about it.  But more importantly, do something about!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Pixar's 22 Rules For Storytelling

More insights from fellow Disney colleagues: The following list was shared by Pixar Story Artist Emma Coates.  Consider each when deciding how to best engage those you want to influence - whether customers, employees, or partners.  Very insightful!
  • You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  • You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  • Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  • Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  • Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  • What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  • Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  • Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  • When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  • Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  • Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  • Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  • Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  • Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  • If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  • What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  • No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  • You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  • Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  • Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  • You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  • What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
 Think about it.  But more importantly, do something about!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The "Pucker Factor"

We all go through good times and bad times.  As service providers, it is easy to give good service when things are going well - plenty of time, plenty of resources, low stress.  Easy.

However, what about when things get busy?  Crunch time?  When the pressure hits?  When "the pucker factor" goes up? 

Here's a tip practiced by world-class success stories: Prepare in advance.  Communicate about the ways you can make your customers feel welcome and special when things are easier.  Invest the time and effort during the good times on exploring how to exceed expectations when conditions are at their worst.

When your customers will need you the most.

And you'll have the least resources (time, energy, etc.) to serve them.

Yes, it's difficult to sacrifice your precious down time.  It requires discipline and extra effort.  Discussing the tough moments in your operation isn't enjoyable.  It can sometimes even be painful.  But talking about it in the midst of the hectic times never results in effective and efficient solutions.  No one "gets the chance" to fix the problems during those times when all you can do is survive.  Even though you can predict the naturally-occurring heavy demands on your organization, how much time do you take to thoroughly prepare for that dynamic - like a lunchtime rush that hits every day at the same time?

Thriving requires strategic discipline.  It demands commitment and foresight.  You have to earn it.  Being the different and better choice takes setting aside the opportunity now to resolve the anticipated challenges that will arise in your future.

Well, at least that's what the most consistently successful world-class organizations do.

Think about it.  But more importantly, do something about!