Woody Bendle is back with one of his favorite strategies for getting past creative blocks, using a creative thinking exercise we explored early in the days of the Brainzooming blog under the name "Change Your Character." I really enjoy Woody's very fun take, turning the brainstorming questions from "Change Your Character" into a creative thinking exercise that puts the FUN into a creative funk!

Overcoming the Funky Creative Funk with Scooby Doo and Friends by Woody Bendle

We’ve all heard of “creative blocks” and most of us have probably experienced one at some point in our lives.  If you have experienced a creative block, you know they can be frustrating and sometimes even worse.  So, where do they come from, and what are some strategies for getting past creative blocks?

Creative-Funk-PosterA creative block is generally regarded as a common and temporary psychological condition.  I personally call it “creative funk.”  And if your livelihood depends upon creativity and producing creative ideas or solutions, a creative funk can feel devastating. Time in a creative funk feels like an e  t  e  r  n  i  t  y and is exceptionally nerve racking, especially if there is the looming pressure of a deadline.

For some, a creative funk can even begin to feed on itself and snowball, creating anxiety and sometimes even leading to a person seriously doubting one's ability to be creative at all.

That’s a major creative funk!

Creative Funk and a Bad Brainstorming Session

Creative funks can be caused by a number of things ranging from fatigue, to stress, to criticism (or fear of criticism), to obsessing over self-imposed performance expectations (perfection).

And, if you’ve ever participated in a poorly run brainstorming session with your organization, you’ve probably experienced all of theses things, and possibly even more.  There aren’t too many things worse than a bad brainstorming session.

Let’s see if any of this sounds familiar. You’re cooped up for hours with a bunch of corporate stiffs in a small, sterile conference room with buzzing fluorescent lights; getting hopped up on M&Ms, Twizzlers and Coca-Cola, and you’re being told to come up with a bunch of good, game-changing ideas because you’re organization’s future (and your job) depends on it.  Yep, that’s a recipe for a real funky creative funk. YIKES!

On its own, the pressure of having to be imaginative or creative under a time crunch can be stressful.  But, add the pressure of having to be brilliantly creative in front of your peers (or perhaps, even your bosses) – it can almost be paralyzing.  I mean let’s admit it, we’re human right!  And even though you’re told that the two most important rules for brainstorming are: 1) there are no bad ideas, and 2) do not criticize the idea, you naturally might be worried about making a bad impression and being judged.

So, what do we do?  Scooby Doo!

Scooby Doo and Friends to the Brainstorming Rescue

Scooby-DooOne technique I’ve found particularly valuable in breaking through a funky creative funk is something I call, “What Would Scooby Do?”

I use Scooby Doo as my illustrative cartoon idea sleuth, but I recommend inserting as many different characters (cartoon, TV, or movie) as you like. The idea here is to put yourself into your character’s mindset and approach solving your problem as they might.  This exercise can be particularly fun in a group!  When everyone is assigned a very different character, and is asked to think about as many different ideas that character might bring to the table, some pretty interesting things can happen.  But the most important thing that happens is that the creative funk gets broken and the creative ideas get flowing!

This creative thinking exercise can help you, and your team break through your funky creative funk for the following reasons:

  1. You focus on the character and not yourself – which can instantaneously de-funk your creative funk
  2. A character has permission to provide “whacky”, off the wall ideas – it’s their idea, not yours
  3. People often see characters quite differently and can offer additional very interesting opinions about how any given character might approach solving the problem, last and perhaps most importantly
  4. It’s a ton of fun and you feel like a kid again! And who doesn’t want to have a little more fun every now and then?

Scooby Doo in Brainstorming Action

So, let’s say you’re team has been charged with coming up with a revolutionary new way to get remove dust from delicate, high-tech surfaces.  There are a number of products out there already that do this pretty well, but how many of those solutions were created by, Rambo, or Wile E Coyote, or MacGyver, or Harry Potter, or Tigger, or Po (Kung-Fu-Panda), or Ferris Bueller, or Kenny (from South Park), or Granny (from the Beverly Hillbillies)?  You’re getting the idea by now I bet.

Each one of these characters would likely approach the problem quite differently and have VERY VERY different ideas about how to solve it.

  • Rambo might just decide to blow the surface up – screw the dust and the stupid surface it’s on!
  • MacGyver might use duct tape – because what can’t he do with duct tape?
  • Tigger might hop up and down to vibrate the dust off.

We could go on like this for hours!  And that’s actually the point in the first place. You’re looking to break down your creative funk, and once you get the ball rolling with this technique, it’s actually hard to stop those creative juices from flowing!

I’ll admit that “What Would Scooby Do” might not be the solution for every creative funk, but what have you got to lose?

Have your own techniques for breaking down creative blocks?  I’d love to hear about them! Woody Bendle


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