The quote above comes from Paul Arden who spent 14 years as the Executive Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi, and is the title of one of his best-selling books – Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite.
‘Do the opposite’ is a useful creative process to get you out of a rut, challenge your own thinking or challenge conventions or norms in your space.
Researcher Albert Rothenberg analysed the process of creative geniuses like Einstein. He coined the term ‘Janusian thinking’ to describe the ability to hold completely opposing views at the same time.
This process asks that you challenge assumptions and come at your challenge from a completely different direction.
To do it yourself, list all the conventions that apply to your category, product or area and reverse them.
Or when you’ve generated a number of options you like, choose one and deliberately find an opposing point of view to your position. Be as contrary as you can.
In a recent example car manufacturer Dacia has launched the world’s first mud wash in an attempt to make Brits “adventure-ready” in the new year. The thinking behind the concept is that almost half of the drivers of vehicles with four-wheel drive have never taken their car off-road. Dacia wants to change that for Duster owners at least, thus reversing the idea that a clean car is the ideal.
And the process doesn’t just work for marketing.
Launched for maximum impact on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Black Lives Matter campaign launched the “Unsafety Check” app that allows black people on social media to mark themselves unsafe for being black in America. This was a clever twist on Facebook’s “safety check” feature, which lets users in a crisis area tell friends they’re safe and a sobering example of doing the opposite to raise awareness of this issue.
In his work Volte Face photographer Oliver Curtis travelled the globe capturing the world’s most famous landmarks including the Colosseum, the Pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, Stonehenge….the list is endless. But if you look at his images, it’s unlikely you’ll recognise any of them. Curtis looked at the famous subjects, then turned around and photographed the ignored landscapes in the opposite direction.
Sadly, I noticed that the British architect Richard Rogers, who changed the London skyline with his designs including the Millenium Dome, passed away this weekend. He was one of the pioneers of the “high-tech” architecture movement, distinguished by structures incorporating industrial materials such as glass and steel.
He is also the co-creator of France’s Pompidou Centre – famous for its multi-coloured, pipe-covered exterior – designed with Italian architect Renzo Piano. The Pompidou Centre is an incredible example of ‘doing the opposite’ putting all the pipes and internal engineering of the building on the outside, making the hidden, visible.
On a side note, Rogers left school with no qualifications before going on to study architecture at Yale. What an original, remarkable thinker. We all dream of leaving a legacy, this man truly has.
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Image above originally posted on LinkedIn