Saturday, January 1, 2011

Collaborative creation and Naked Tennis Guy.

It's Sunday morning. I'm surrounded by creatives, Play Doh, random craft items, and butcher-paper-covered tables. Just when I thought things couldn't get more bizarre, a very tall Stefan Mumaw, author and creative director for Reign, walks into the packed room wearing a nun's habit. He welcomes us to the "Church of Creativity" with a tactic for us to remember his main point – that "creativity is a habit."

First of all, where had our childlike craft enthusiasm gone?
We're artists, right? It's funny, the craft situation was so daunting for most of us. We were probably going to have to make something. Right there, with our hands. On the fly. Dear. God.

Scary situation number two, we would most likely be creating things with teams. 
Teams of design-minded strangers. Two more random insights that Stefan made about designers in general:
1. They are the most competitive creatures on earth.
2. Do not play practical jokes on them. Just don't.

As kids, this sea of craft tables would have no doubt been an awesome situation. Somewhere along the way we forgot how to fearlessly create things. How to be so very proud of those ridiculous creations. Boldly hanging them on the fridge for all to see. Unapologetically, basking in glittery-macaroni-pasted glory.

Collaborative creation.
Throughout the challenges, we remembered that creating is fun. We made Sasquatches, amusement park rides for bugs, and unrealistic work station designs. We drew right on the table and had no place to hide our thoughts-in-process. No one was judging. Ideas flowed freely and grew from group input.

Collective brainsqualling.
Collaborative creation is where the creative industry is already going. Stefan pitched a team brainstorming method with co-author Wendy Lee Oldfield that they call brainsqualling. It's a big wave of creativity that comes in fast and then dissipates, to build again later.

Think before you think.
His team gets a creative brief and then thinks about it individually for a week or so. A team of 5-7 people who think differently get together for the brainsquall.

Disarm the room.
Stefan was a master, as noted by the nun getup. How do you get a room full of big egos to leave all that alpha-dog-wanna-be-insecurity at the door? To let loose with good, bad, and half-baked ideas that lead to better ideas?

He told us about a project his company was working on for a tennis client. For the brainsquall, he entered the room in 1980s-era badass John McEnroe attire. Tennis match footage was projected on the walls of the room. In the spirit of McEnroe, he hurled tennis equipment around and threw tantrums.

Limber up those creative muscles.
When the room is fully disarmed, he starts with an exercise to get everyone feeling creative. In this case, they had to come up with a tennis-related super hero.

The power of Naked Tennis Guy.
The favorite imagined superhero? Naked Tennis Guy. Think about it, let's say you're out in the world doing something villainous. Out of the corner of your eye, you see this naked dude – arms crossed, staring you down with extreme vigilante disapproval. While you are completely shocked and caught off guard by the inherent nakedness, he chucks a tennis ball at you. That's it. That is his power.

Unleash the creativity.
For an hour or so, let the ideas flow. Then walk away. Incubate the group ideas. Repeat as necessary.

And, remember, no one expects the Naked Tennis Guy.

[If you want more insight from this workshop, here's an overview from the HOW Conference.]

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  1. Hey, thanks for the link. I keep meaning to put up more content from HOW and will soon.

  2. Anytime. I'm still trying to get through my notes and books from HOW. Lots of great insight this year.