Every January the media return to the not-all-at-new, ‘new year, new you’ lists.
I embrace the clean slate bit, but I hate the ‘new you’ part of resolutions. Needing a ‘new’ version suggests there’s something wrong with you as you are. The underlying message is that somehow you can just try harder. But as we know from our work and personal lives, motivation and behaviour change are far more complex than that. If it was that easy, we’d all already be a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating our 5-a-day and so on.
The month of January is named after the two-faced Roman god Janus – looking to both the future and the past. Researcher Albert Rothenberg studied Nobel prize winners and coined the term ‘Janusian thinking’ to describe the ability to hold two opposing views at once.
And when it comes to creativity, this idea of being two-faced is good.
And this is something I can get on board with as we head into a new year, and it’s a way of thinking that you can deliberately adopt if you’re looking for fresh ideas.
Paul Arden’s ‘Whatever you Think, Think The Opposite’ is one of the most well-thumbed books on my shelf. This approach asks that you challenge assumptions and come at your topic from a completely different direction. I find that working from home has made collaboration and debate about ideas much harder and you might have to nominate someone as chief contrarian to challenge you.
To do it, list all the conventions that apply to your category, product or area and challenge or reverse them.
Or, when you have a number of options you’ve narrowed down, choose one and deliberately find an opposing point of view to your position. See what this does to your idea.
Traditionally, dirty clothes were portrayed as ‘bad’ in marketing. Doing the opposite, you get Persil’s Dirt Is Good platform, running for over 20 years.
When Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris they broke the conventions of architecture and put some of the infrastructure – like the plumbing and electrics – on the outside. This gave the building its unique form and challenged preconceived ideas of how buildings could look and function.
Outdoor retailer REI closed its doors on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. REI invited its customers to opt outside, with surprising commercial success and awards galore.
This can be a great way to shake up your thinking and tackle bias. So next time anyone accuses you of being two-faced or contrary, take it as a compliment, whatever time of the year!
You might like this article too – How To Tackle Creative Burnout
This article appeared on PRWeek.co.uk on 7th January