The Creative Spark!—Original Thought

Original thought means everything at universities.  At least, at the graduate level.  At the undergraduate level, many students busy themselves citing stuff already written.  But once they get into graduate studies, they’re expected to make original research—whether done through surveys, interviews, theories and/or methodologies.

Recently, I spoke with a world renown psychologist about creativity.  I mentioned to him that scientist Roberta Ness wrote about original thinking in her book Innovation Generation.  In her book, Roberta claims that scientific breakthroughs sometimes come from comedy and analogies.

I then referred the psychologist to two authors: Joe Toplyn, who wrote the Bible on comedy-writing, and Pete Barry, who wrote the Bible on advertising.

The psychologist quizzed me, “How do analogy and comedy affect everyday life?”  Well, for me, both offer a marketing edge and a writer’s boost.  Plus, analogies speed-up learning while comedy boosts joy.

And creativity helps students craft original papers, models, and theories.  Creativity sprinkles life into presentations and cover pages.  Creativity can also secure a career.

I’ve struggled with finding a job.  The last time I checked, the unemployment rate in Calgary was the highest in all of Canada.  But last week, I submitted a portfolio of advertising concepts to a national franchisor—and they loved it.

So, bone up on creative advertising.  Here’s some tips for making original ideas from Pete Barry’s The Advertising Concept Book:

  • “Produce a TV or radio commercial so great that people will want to record it, or a poster so great that people will want to tear it from the wall and take it home” (p. 11).
  • Aim to make your advertisement wittier than Coca Cola’s or Red Bull’s.
  • The best advertising starts with a truth. Find a sliver of truth or a bucket of truths.  Exaggerate that truth.
  • Focus on one clear benefit of your product. More than one benefit muddles your message.  Make that benefit clearer than a Mr. Clean window.
  • Reduce wordy ads to less than seven words.
  • Ads should be simple. Don’t muddle them with complexity.
  • Exaggerate all the benefits and make light of any potential negatives. For instance, Volvo is a tiny car, so Volvo’s company features this negative in a positive light.
  • Make your company seem bigger than your largest competitors. So, if you own a hamburger food truck, make it seem bigger than McDonald’s.
  • Play with opposites.
  • Use double entendre: words with two meanings.
  • Appeal to a greater demographic. For instance, to sell flowers to men, put Venus fly traps into vases shaped like sharks’ mouths.

Creativity has no limits.  Even absurd ideas change the world with the right backing.  That is, until such ideas cause hardship and poverty.  That’s when resistance fires.  And sometimes resistance itself stirs hardship and poverty.  That’s the dilemma of universities.

As a final thought: Creativity or practicality?  Depends on if you’re entering or exiting the university.