Photo by Myriam Baril-Tessier
If you hit a wall, grab a sledgehammer.
As part of a new partnership with Factry, some of the Butchershop crew and the Edition 2 interns of the World’s Greatest Internship (WGI) spent a week in Montreal at Factry’s School for Creative Sciences. Throughout that week, we workshopped our way through a unique multidisciplinary curriculum designed to unlock creativity and help people discover solutions for complex problems. We learned a few exercises we wanted to pass on to our community. These exercises were inspired by Factry, but modified and tailored by us to be more focused toward brand and identity work. Put them in your toolbox. They work under any circumstance, for any vertical, at any stage of growth. They might just help you solve for whatever needs solving.
1. Question The Question
To uncover news way to solve for a particular problem you’re presented with. You can use this format when you’ve got mental roadblocks keeping you from creative. This can be done in groups to create more solutions.
Step 1. Have a problem.
Step 2. Find the statement of the problem.
Step 3. Reformat a statement into a new question, using a “Given that…, How can we…?” structure.
Here’s a prompt from Janet Kestin of SWIM. For an MRI machine to work properly, the patient needs to be as still as possible during the procedure. This is normally ok for adults, but young children have a hard time keeping still. It’s an intimidating machine for a kid. MRI’s are loud, claustrophobic, and uncomfortable. We can formulate the problem into this statement way: “Children don’t like taking MRIs.” Why we can’t stop at that realization is something most people don’t notice: the answer to the problem being posed is already within the statement. It won’t unlock creativity the same way reformatting the statement will. Children disliking MRIs presupposes that a solution is making children like them. Turn it into a reformatted question, and you’ll understand the issues from a way that promotes a proactive pathway toward a creative solution: “Given that children don’t like being inside MRI machines, how can we make the experience more enjoyable and cooperative to give them the vital procedures they need?” Most people thinking “Make the machine quieter.” But the answer in this particular case (and more reasonable answer), was that operators and doctors would dress up as pop culture characters, like Spiderman or Captain Jack Sparrow, during the procedures to help kids relax and feel safer in the machine.
2. Impact Matrix
To show where an idea may fall in terms of its impact vs. effort, as well as help uncover which ideas may be more viable than others. This can be created for the smallest or largest of initiatives.
Step 1. Create a 3×3 table.
Step 2. At the top of the Y-axis, write “High Impact” and at the bottom, write “Low Impact”.
Step 3. At the left side of the X-axis, write “Low Effort” and at the right, write “High Effort”.
Step 4. Place your ideas in accordance with their impact and effort level.
Say a coffee brand comes to you in need of a campaign. You’ve got several ideas, but don’t know how to discern which idea will be not only viable but also the right idea for the budget, time, or resources you have to get it done. For the sake of the example, you present two options: (1) a guerilla-style campaign that places stickers on competitors coffee packages stating “Your coffee drinks our coffee in the morning.”; or (2) a classic TV spot that pulls at the emotional heartstrings of millions of viewers, about how a family comes together around their morning coffee. Simply breathtaking. Arguably, both can be successful, but if you laid them out on the matrix, you can see the level of impact in both options, as well as the effort required to make them happen, meaning you can see just how much time, money, and creative resources you’d need to pull each off. If we take the MRI example in the first exercise, dressing up as cultural icons led to a high impact/low effort creative way to solve a big problem. A great solution.
3. Mirror, Mirror
To turn perceived weaknesses into your greatest strengths. This can be done from a personal level, or brand level. Note that this isn’t an exercise meant to deceive or manipulate; it’s meant to understand your self-perception in a new way to build new pathways forward.
Step 1. Write down perceived weakness, issues, or negative attributes.
Step 2. Then think about them from their opposite perspective by turning them into something that stands as a strength. Find the positive, ownable characteristic.
Let’s say a tech company in security and compliance comes to you with a perception problem. They have a reputation for being dull, inoffensive. Internally, they lack morale. Now, luckily people who rely on the security and compliance market want consistency and zero surprises. So it’s a bit of an internal repositioning tactic: instead of dull, they’re reliable and safe. Instead of bland, they’re more concerned with providing a great product than looking cool. Instead of being in the unsexy world of compliance, they’re in the crucial marketplace of keeping a company’s assets and people safe. These are small pivots in the mind, but you can already see how they can begin to talk about themselves differently and focus on a strong POV that they can own as a company. This will eventually translate from their internal culture to the external world.
4. Fuzzy Target
To remove the fuzziness or the facade an idea can carry or build over time, to uncover the real reasoning behind an idea, purpose, or goal. This is effective for strategic alignment, or anything else that needs deeper understanding.
Step 1. Draw a large circle, with 5 concentric rings inside.
Step 2. Label the outermost circle ‘What’, the next ‘Who’, next ‘How’, then ‘Why’, then another ‘Why’, and then at the center circle, one last ‘Why’. It should look like a generic target.
Step 3. Answer every question, starting from the outermost circle, the ‘What’, until you get to the center ‘Why.’
You’re a company that’s been in the game for 10 years, and trying to figure out why you do what you do. Maybe the thread was lost during the first 5 years? Maybe you changed your product offering and it’s knocked over the flag you initially planted in the marketplace? Either way, you’re not sure, and you need to know in order to feel like your brand is headed in the right direction. Answer these questions: “What do you do?”, “Who do you do it for?”, “How do you do it for them?”, “Why?”, “Why?”, and, lastly, “Why?” Write down the answers. You have to be stubborn with this exercise. When you get to the second “Why”, it’s easy for people to say “I don’t know.” But always follow up with a “why?”, until they do. For example, if an “I don’t know” is proposed before you get to the center, ask “Why don’t you know?” A question always presupposes an answer. You’ll often find people know the answers already, they just need coaxing.