Friday, February 12, 2010

Say Oops! More

Over the years I’ve given a lot of workshops on creativity and at the end of every one I would ask participants to turn in critique cards. One of the questions was: What was the favorite tip of the day?

More often than not it was: SAY OOPS MORE.

Imagine you’re a mechanical engineer in the Navy trying to find a way to protect sensitive equipment from being knocked around in rough seas. Thinking that tension springs might be the answer, one gets accidentally knocked on the floor. You watch as it moves end over end over end. OOPS! Suddenly the Slinky® was born.

Or maybe you’re a scientist in France working with cellulose nitrate in a glass flask. You turn and hear the muffled sound of glass as it shatters on the floor, but doesn’t break. OOPS! And we’ve been grateful for laminated glass, especially in car windshields, ever since.

Or try convincing your bosses for five years that a glue you accidentally discovered but doesn’t really adhere well, could really be worth something. They never went for it. But thanks to his OOPS!, Post-It® sticky note paper is as ubiquitous as beads during Mardi Gras.

So how do you find more Oops in your life?

My top three tips (out of many) are:

  1. Embrace Detours. Thoughtless routine tends to dull the mind and cloud the eye. Every now and again life throws detours in our “normal” routines. Most people get so frustrated or angry by them that they fail to see the many opportunities for discovery that are along the path. New stores. New people. New catalysts for new ideas. Detours compel us to be more alert, think more quickly and offer creative potential for those who will embrace them.
  2. Forget the Box. I know, creativity gurus have for decades advised us to think outside the box, because that’s where the unknown lies. The problem with that is the comfort of the box is usually within reach and too often, especially when we are confronted by less than enthusiastic reactions to our outside-the-box thinking, we jump back into the comfort of the cardboard.

However, if you truly want to stretch your creativity muscles, once you get outside the box, kick it where you can’t see it and can’t get to it easily. Get far away from it. If you need shelter from criticism, build a lean-to, find a cave, sleep under the stars, but don’t go running back in the box.

  1. Go back to kindergarten. Seriously. Call your local elementary school and ask if you can visit a kindergarten class. Tell them you need to recharge your creativity and kids are creativity unhampered. Ask the teacher if you can assist him/her for the day. Finger-paint. Read stories. Run on the playground. Eat a peanut butter and pickle sandwich. Take a nap. Be loud. Laugh. Jump in the puddles. Put your jacket on inside-out. Color a tree yellow, color outside the lines, and what the heck, don’t draw the tree like a tree. I mean the list goes on and on.

And if you can’t find a cooperative kindergarten class. Do those things anyway. (Although you may not want to do them while you’re at work. They might not understand.)

Oh yeah, and say Oops! more.

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