The Creative Process, AKA The Bouncing Ball
January 24, 2012
Close your eyes and imagine a ball bouncing behind you. Don’t turn around and look.
What color is the ball?
Does it have a pattern?
What size is the ball?
What’s it made of?
Who is bouncing the ball?
How tall are they?
Is it even a person? (Maybe an ape?)
What surface is it being bounced on?
How close is the ball to you?
How many possibilities are there? Infinite possibilities. Because you can’t see the idea just yet. Now turn and take a look.
When you see the ball and its bouncer—in other words, the idea—how many possibilities are there now?
In this case, a female brown bear wearing a pale green tutu, bouncing a 3-inch blue & white polka-dotted ball on a parquet floor. At least, that’s what I saw.
Even though it looks like a good idea, close your eyes again and turn back around. The ball is still bouncing, and the next time you turn around, you’ll see something else.
This is the subconscious working. It connects the two halves of the brain, making the sum greater than the parts.
As an ECD, I’ve often found myself explaining the “mysterious creative process” to clients, CFOs, and the occasional doctor or accountant. They tend to see themselves as left-brainers, and creative people as unabashed right-brainers.
But the creative process needs the whole brain.
When creatives are faced with a problem, we overload our brains with as much information as we can get. We ask a lot of questions. We think on it deeply, and then move onto something else, coming back to it later. I like to call this the bouncing ball. By uploading reams of data into the left-side of the brain, we’ve started the ball bouncing. By walking away and working on something completely unrelated, we’ve let the subconscious tell us who is bouncing that ball.
Add in curiosity, and you have a lot of colorful balls being bounced by a lot of interesting characters. In other words, radical ideas. Add in the strategic insight of smart research and planning, and you get powerful sparks that make those radical ideas practical.
Put together, it creates problem-solving, business-purposeful ideas.