I do a creative workshop twice a year called “SMASH” which allows individuals to get out of their head/ box. At this workshop I teach a style of theater called Surrealism. Surrealism is an art form that aims at releasing the creative potential of the unconscious mind.
I put the students in groups of 3 and each group reenacts a dream. One group chose to reenact a dream sequence that included being a fish and getting taken to the blender to be chopped up. As they reenacted the dream they got on stage twirling, flapping up and down and looking like a fish out of water. They began talking to each other and then one by one they were taken away and discarded. The stage was left completely empty and the scene ended.
When they finished I asked them to describe their scene to us in more detail. They said the dream they chose included human beings being turned into fish and placed into a blender. On stage they were the fish flapping around and as they exited the stage they were going to meet their death by being put into blender.
As an audience we loved what they came up with. I watched the other members in the workshop and they were laughing at this group and totally engaged with everything that they were doing. Why? They were original. Remember, creativity is coming up with an original idea that has value. This skit re-enacted had value in that it made the audience laugh, it was funny and thoroughly entertaining.
The same can be said for groups that come up with an original idea that has value. However, our endless pursuit of logic keeps us in our head/box. Being logical, linear and organized are all valued commodities in corporate America and have their place. However, when these are the only elements emphasized it puts a squeeze on creativity. Creativity does not exist in conditions that only include logic and being rational.
How do we enter our dream state? The easiest way to tap into one’s subconscious state is to re-enact one’s dream. In the theater this would involve actors playing the various roles and re-enacting the scene. In working America this would involve being in a meeting and group members sharing their dreams with one another. This could be used as a catalyst to come up with a new product, design, idea, process, procedure or other challenge facing the group. The key when sharing in the meeting is that all dreams get on the white board without censoring and then you can go back and refine.
As a rule of thumb when sharing in the meeting room I subscribe to Tim Brown’s (CEO/IDEO) workflow processes when his team meets at IDEO. He has 4 basic principles his team subscribes to in this meeting and I would suggest using these when sharing one’s dreams. Principles include:
1. Stay focused on one idea
2. Defer judgment
3. Embrace bold ideas
4. Build off one another
We want to use our dreams to come up with vivid, colorful out of the box ideas that our competition would never discover. Remember, the goal for SMASH THE BOX is to generate ideas that are out of the box and different from our competition. If we solely rely on our intellect the ideas we come up will be similar to our completion and the results will be unimpressive.
To many in working America this has to sound absurd. However, if you think of Steve Jobs he was a dreamer and operated much of his time in the subconscious state. When a Disney executive charged with revitalizing the stores he turned to Jobs for advice. Jobs responded, “Dream bigger”.* We must dream… and then dream bigger! Surrealism allows us to dream bigger!
Written by Chad J. Willett