How to have 400 ideas in 1 minute?

To apply to my Master's Degree in London in Art Direction & Creative thinking in advertising, I had to present myself most creatively in four minutes. Four minutes is both super short and way too long. When you're 22yo, Parisian, and not truly confident, it is a challenge. "What could I say? What is being creative? What does it really mean?"

I remember other applicants; one recorded a call with his ex, and he asked her to present his personality, one sang a song, one recorded himself asking himself questions. Is it creativity? And you, how would you introduce yourself most creatively?

According to the dictionary, creativity means "the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations." so basically, pushing your limits to the fullest.

This school was creative by itself; it was an old church renovated into an art school. Every student looked different. There were 20k applicants and 40 selected students. 

One day, I had a life-changing course. 

I remember our teacher came up on stage; he wore pink pants with yellow bananas and a white t-shirt with his face on it. He was a successful trader who turned in advertising because "he made enough money to please his Jewish mother so now, he could do what he really loves." 

He started moving, running everywhere, and started by "Kids, today, I'm gonna help you become a superhuman." "I'm gonna teach you how to have four hundred ideas in one minute." We were excited, scared, and we didn't believe him. We, young students, were struggling to get one good idea after three hours of brainstorming; so how could it be possible?

Warm up your brain.

Because creativity doesn't apply only to advertising, marketing, and communication, here are some tricks to let your brain flow:

  • Most people stop at their first ideas and don't apply equal focus to every moment of deliberate divergent thinking: meaning, we usually stop at our first idea because we feel if it was the first, it's the right one. When the first idea can be the foundation of a bigger concept.
  • Every minute is equally essential: meaning, time doesn't have a value.
  • Push yourself through the barrier, go further, don't stop, go through the pain: meaning, being creative is a like an intense sport for your brain, you don't stop or quit when it's becoming hard. It can be painful, tough, but it's exactly at this moment that things are getting interesting.
  • The best ideas happenned in the shower, bed, bathroom, supermarket: in your relaxing time: meaning, your brain can truly function when it's relaxed, not stressed, or pressured. Find the environement to recreate this state of mind and let the flow of information come to you. 
  • Preparation is vital: meaning, you have to know your subject by heart. Target? Audience? What's the product about? The tech behind it? Who is the founder? The most information you'll get, the more elements you'll have to get creative.

If everything has a process, then creativity has a process.

We were enthusiatic, thrilled to know how could we have so much ideas. So here is how the course really started.

"Creativiy = knowledge + problem + divergent thinking + collaboration" 

If you remove one element in the equation, everything falls apart.The divergent thinking is one important aspect, and we could think that it is creativity by itself, when it's not. The collaboration gives you endless possibilities, and the problem also. The crucial part is to accept the infinity of solution without filter. With your brainstorming partner you should share every single thought you have. That's why you should work with someone you trust. To remove this filter and be as creative as possible.

The list of opposites.

Alfred Harmsworth, created the Daily Mail after having quite a disruptive thinking at the time: merging opposites. There was no balance between "stupid" tabloids and "boring" financial journals in the UK. When he noticed the gap in between, Harmsworth deciced to create a journal to mix those two worlds. Which became the most sold newspapper in the world! Sometimes, as advertisers or even entrepreneurs we are looking for a niche like a gold mine. We are waiting for this market opportunity when we could just create it. Link elements between them and let the magic happen. 

So now, let's practice!

Your brain is a muscle, so it needs to be trained. The more you'll practice, the more efficient you'll get. Don't judge yourself or forfeit when it's too hard, because it's only the beginning. You don't run a marathon directly. 

Start with this: Take a sheet of paper, a timer and a pen. You have one minute to write all the superpower a superhero could have.

Was it hard? Challenging? Did you felt stuck? Do you have a headache? It doesn't matter how much superpowers you could write, how realistic it is, how interesting or dumb your answers are, it's just training. You're working on your brain's neuroplasticity. With practice, you'll get more efficient, and you'll unlock parts of your creativity you could never imagine.

Can we all be creative?

We think that being creative means being a "talented designer" a "smart strategist" "A free brain with no limit", when it's being almost a mathematician, with a strong logic, sticked to the ground with the eyes wide open.

We all have access to our brain, memory, knowledge, references and culture. The mix of all our backgrounds and experiences is an actual gold mine for new ideas. Being creative is not the ultimate goal, but being free is. Free of thinking differently, expressing our opinion. Free to be open to new possibilities and let the opportunities come to us is also a sign of creativity, in a way.

For the quick story, this is what I did to present myself creativily: I'm passionate about photography and at the time, I was practicing it a lot. I developped my favorite pictures in 3D with Photoshop, bought as much 3D glasses I could, gave it to the audience and started my pitch with: "Welcome into my world." I talked about the role of advertising in our society and how it could have a huge positive impact. That, as advertisers we had the responsability to be creative and inspire people. (If only I knew, when I was sweating on this stage in front of many people, that one day, I would have created my own agency...)

In Futur Shock, Alvin Toffler said: " The problem is not whether a man can survive reglementation and standardisation.The problem, as we shall see, is whether a man can survive freedom."

Some other blog posts you could like

What Else?