Creative Marketing – Thinkibility Boost


Classical marketing campaigns are mostly massive in nature, like the Napoleonic Wars. By using brute force and heavenly leaning on resources (people, money, gun power, logistics, management skills) they ty to win. Basically, both parties are in the same game, each trying to use better but more-of-the-same tactics.

An alternative for the not so powerful is to turn to guerrilla warfare. Poor but highly dedicated small teams use asymmetric tactics to surprise and confuse the enemy, thereby using maximal creativity.

But what is creative thinking?

Creative thinking is not doing more-of-the-same

(in the example: applying straight lines), but breaking away from that, for instance by using curved or broken lines.

Thinking patterns
However, it is not easy to break away from standard patterns.
Also, any time we break a standard way of thinking, a behaviour or new idea, bystanders will react with a rejection: this is impossible, it can’t work, it is too costly, complex, difficult or risky. Every time a negative is used, the thinking stops.
Creative marketing is escaping from the standard approaches that are used by big companies. But how to get new ideas?

Normally we think with the speed of light to the first satisfying idea

By that, we miss interesting alternatives along the way
With a Provocative Operation we break away from mainstream thinking. The Provocative Operation (moving outside the mainstream to the green spot) is a attempt to escape standard thinking in order to arrive at an original idea.

For instance: Apple sells our (paper)notebook together with their notebooks.

We will discuss four creative thinking techniques to escape standard thinking:

  • Taken for Granted
  • The Provocation
  • Use Resources
  • Focus

Taken for Granted

Make a list of taken for granted things of a product, at least 15. That is what is normal, assumed to be, standard, generally accepted or obvious. Then we escape by abandon it or modify it.

It is taken for granted that a restaurant has a venue and that the guests are dressed.

A restaurant does not have a venue. That could lead to the idea to set up a picnic service for romantic people.

Guests are naked. That could lead to the idea of a nudist restaurant.

To get creative marketing ideas about for instance an Eco bottle. What is obvious of a bottle (form, materials, filling, getting it, getting rid of it, etc.). Then modify (remove, amplify, change, combine, etc).

The Provocation

Try to escape negatives by redefining criticism by “this is interesting” and “under what circumstances might this have value”, or “could we create value out of this?”. The aim of the Provocation is to move forward the thinking towards an idea that works.

Sandwiches will make themselves

Senor citizens, refugees and children donate by age for using supporting services.

Use Resources

We tend to solve problems by using known and standard solutions. For instance: for attaching something to the ceiling we automatically think of a ladder. But only after we give ourselves the explicit thinking order to use what is at hand, we come up with alternatives: using tables, making a tower of bodies, using the walls, making a long pole.

This creativity technique is also called: think inside the box, meaning no adding additional resources

Make a list of props (things) and persons in your immediate surroundings. Think up in what ways they could contribute or add value.

Integrated Values

A petrol company wanted to create more brand loyalty. That is not simple, for most drivers petrol is just petrol. One of the company’s resources is the car driver. By getting under the skin of the driver, they discovered that getting a parking place in town is an important value for the customer. So they set up a cooperation with parking garages. For the drivers, the petrol company and the parking garage a win-win situation. Together they delivered an integrated value.

Could we design integrated values for the customers of a fruit selling shop?


Defining the thinking task before beginning an idea generation session is one of the most neglected stages.

Most starting questions are far too broad defined. For instance. In What Ways Might We (IWWMW) get more clients.

However, it is more helpful to break it down into smaller topics, as “IWWMW add more value to our product”,“IWWMW get more clients with help of our existing clients”, “IWWMW use other product to sell ours. Redefine at least 15 IWWMW’s in order to escape from the obvious ones and get a really creative challenge.

Avoid formulating IWWMW’s becoming too small. In that case, the IWWMW will just be a concrete solution and will not give you any direction for further searching new ideas.

Then make the challenge less boring and sexier. That is: make them more imaginative, outreaching, challenging, interesting. For instance: sex up “IWWMW get more clients by using our existing clients”.“Our clients collect so much organic waste that we have to export it”.

Then add a constraint: people, money, time, channels.

Finally construct a propelling question, a question that drives forward the effort for creative thinking by using a bold ambition and a significant restriction. For instance: “let’s get 50 more clients by firing all account managers”.

Again, the technique of the creative focus is to force oneself outside common thinking. The technique on the focus can be applied to all of the four of the marketing mix:

  • functionality, packing and service of the Product
  • policies about paying and Price
  • sales, advertisements, Publicity
  • and Promotion logistics, storage, inventory and selling channels

Creative Marketing is all about standing out of your competitors, being perceived as a Blue Fish, at no costs.


See also:


What Big Data, what information dominance?


A new adage is blowing around in the world of innovation. According to Wikipedia, The term “big data” often refers simply to the use of predictive analytics, user behavior analytics, or certain other advanced data analytics methods that extract value from data, and seldom to a particular size of data set. Analysis of data sets can find new correlations to “spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on”.
It is reminiscent of an early US Navy doctrine, as a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the essence of teachings in a given branch of knowledge or belief system. As such, it is a thinking pattern, in which is stated that “information superiority permits the conduct of operations without effective opposition”.

However, in an electronic war game back in 2002 one aircraft carrier, ten cruisers and five out of six amphibious ships were sent to the bottom of the Persian Gulf in the span of just one hour, resulting in the virtual death of over 20.000 US service personnel.

It was the result of an asymmetric strategy by the opponent forces.

Red, commanded by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, adopted an asymmetric strategy, in particular, using old methods to evade Blue’s sophisticated electronic surveillance network. Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders to front-line troops and World-War-II-style light signals to launch airplanes without radio communications.
Red received an ultimatum from Blue, essentially a surrender document, demanding a response within 24 hours. Thus warned of Blue’s approach, Red used a fleet of small boats to determine the position of Blue’s fleet by the second day of the exercise. In a preemptive strike, Red launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles that overwhelmed the Blue forces’ electronic sensors and destroyed sixteen warships (Wikipedia)It is the same kind of bold thinking we noticed in our blog Thinking outside the SeaMap:  “doing different things” or “escaping the temptation to do more-of-the-same but only better”.


Military strategists distinguish between symmetric and asymmetric warfare. Symmetric warfare is characterized by standing armies that follows more or less the same tactics and organized in the same way. Their standard mode of operation can be traced back to Napoleonic Warfare.

Guerrilla warfare is an escape from fighting according to the rules imposed by the often far more powerful opponent. Therefore, this strategy is often applied by less powerful opponents. The most famous form is guerrilla warfare, next to terrorism.

Asymmetric competitor strategies could be an effective approach in business. Basically, it is not playing the game similar to the other companies, that is selling and marketing the same products as competitors but cheaper and better. It is about disruptive innovation, changing the rules in the market, by delivering a complete different product than you competitor does. It is all about gaining competitive advantage by creating an unique niche in the market. Playing another race at a different circuit.

There is much more to say about the embarrassing destruction of the mighty US Navy, as the over reliance on technological superiority and information dominance. It’s all about big organizations and the neglect of intuition about the intentions and capabilities of the competitor.


There is much more to say about the embarrassing destruction of the mighty US Navy, as the over reliance on technological superiority and information dominance. Also, the neglect of intuition about the intentions and capabilities of the enemy.

Disclaimer: Now you have heard  about the advantage of disruptive innovation or step-out innovation and decide that your organization should do “some of that.” But most organizations are designed to do something else very well. Namely, what they are already doing. You may have a brilliant vision, you may have identified the next great idea, but organizational routines, standard Key Performance Indicators and existing organizational structures will prevent proper execution: The company will will continue to do what they are already doing succesfully: ” a tiny bit better and a tiny bit cheaper?” See “Why Big Companies Can’t Innovate” by Maxell Wessel.

See also the video: Disruptive Innovation Explained by Clay Christensen.

Thinking outside the Sea Map


In 17th and 18th centuries England, France, and Spain contested the Dutch domination of world trade and the control over the seas and trade routes. After initial English successes, the war ended in a decisive Dutch victory.

In 1667 Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter sailed up to the river Thames and attacked the British Royal navy in her home base and towed away the Royal Charles, pride and flagship of the English fleet to display it as a tourist attraction in Hellevoetsluis in the Netherlands. It was one of the worst defeats in the Royal Navy’s history, comparable with that of the fall of Singapore in 1942.

Till then, both navies had tried to fight each other at the open seas. Numbers of war ships, range and caliber of the guns and coordinated maneuvering skills were key success factors. However, de Ruyter did something totally different, he sailed up to Chatham and surprised the resting British fleet there.  That way he outperformed the British navy by changing the rules of the game.


This kind of thinking is the same you should apply when you want to reach dramatic cost reductions, come up with a radical new concept for an existing product or creating a breakthrough innovation. In those cases more-of-the-same thinking will not provide for a game change in the market. Patterns of standard thinking should be broken in order to get competitive advantage.

Edward de Bono, de inventor of lateral thinking, called it Sur/petition: creating value monopolies when everyone else is merely competiting.


However, it is not simple to come up with disruptive ideas. And also, to convince your board and your crew.

When the secret instructions were opened on June 7 there was a lot of protest. It was noted that most officers do did their best to find objections, but not to come up with solutions.

See also: Creative Execution: What Great Leaders Do to Unleash Bold Thinking and Innovation or watch this video 2′ 23”

Patterns in Medicine


We came across a booklet that could be a good example for the kind of studies by the envisioned Thinkibility University. At its West Wing, scientists dissect the basic thinking patterns in a scientific discipline.

Siddhartha Mukherjee was asking himself: If there is a science of medicine, then science has laws. Physics has laws. Chemistry has laws. Biology has laws.

The simple question was: If that’s the case, then what are the laws of medicine? These were not meant to be universal commandments. These were meant to be explorations about principles that might hold true about medicine today and about medicine in the future. That was the framework for this book.

Law One : A strong intuition is much more powerful than a weak test.

Law Two: “Normals” teach us rules; “outliers” teach us laws

Law Three: For every perfect medical experiment, there is a perfect human bias

Watch or read here an interview with him about the book. You could also read the Ted book: The Laws of Medicine Field – Notes from an Uncertain Science

For us, Gijs and Asa, it is not the description of the laws of a scientific discipline that interests us – how interesting they are by itself but the possibility they give to escape from it. Once spelled out, laws are just vehicles to set up new approaches.

In short, at the West Wing of the Thinkibility University, they are thinking laterally about science.


We have earlier written about patterns in science and possible escapes from them in the following blogposts:

Our next post about the topic “Patterns in Science” will be about Patterns in Law. Could it be that in Western law assumptions are hidden that hinders us in modern times?

Not to miss?  Follow Thinkibility. The blog about Thinking, Creativity, Innovation and Design.


Design New Concepts – Thinkibility Boost

There are several ways to design a new concept deliberately. But what is a new concept? Not many people have a quick answer to this question, other than “differently than expected”, “something else as normal”, “not seen before” or just “interesting”.

One of the easiest ways to design a new concept is to escape from an existing concept. For that, we need a concise description of the existing concept, otherwise we will be lost in all the details containing in the concept.

In an earlier blog post we gave some handles to describe a concept:

  1. Give it an appealing name;
  2. What is the function of the concept: aim, goal, objective? What should be achieved?
  3. Wat is the mechanism or working principle? How does it work? How is the function carried out?
  4. What are the values of the concept: advantages, positives, the importance, worth, or usefulness, merits, beneficial? Why does the concept deserve to exist? For who else?

For instance:

  1. Football match
  2. The function of a football match is to exercise sports
  3. The working principle is that there are two teams that try to get the football into each others goals, according to rules.
  4. It is valued as entertainment, physical exercise, social exchange

Escape for instance the mechanism: instead of two there are three teams and three goals.

3 sided football

You can imagine that three-sided football will be a real game-changer, literally. As the BBC mentioned: a game of alliance and betrayal. The whole dynamic of the game is dramatically changed.

Once a new concept has”opened up” in your mind, we might “see” the world in a disruptive way, through the new concept and take analogies from it.

For instance: the conflict in Syria is basically a three-side game. That might open up new strategies and policies for military planning and diplomacy. Or prevent from blundering into military and diplomatic disasters by interpreting wrongly a three actors situation as a classical two actors cold war situation.

Or we can apply the same concept escape to another two-sided  game, f.i. three player chess


We could also escape from the aspect of values, by excluding, adding, or changing values.

Escape from values: add spectacle to the game.

Ideas:  change the game from 2D into 3D, using acrobats.

Actually, the concept change is from 2 D to 3D. This new concept can then be applied to other 2D games and opens new possibilities, like 3D chess


The same we could apply to escaping from function (goal, aim or objective of the concept). F.i. the function of a pension is that people who can’t work any longer are provided with a minimum of money to survive.

We could change the function: let’s suppose that the aim of “pension” is to keep the retiree as long as healthy. Now we can come up with mechanism that could realise this new function. For instance that the retiree does not receive a fix amount of money per year during the rest of his life time, but a linear increasing one. This would stimulate the retiree to stay active during the first years of his pension, by doing some paid work  during some hours in the week.

Many new business models are the result of changing one or more aspects of the concept description. See for example  how these fast-growing, innovative companies are redefining money lending, e-commerce, and more,

We invite you to describe how their innovative  business models differ from classic business models in terms of function, mechanism and value.


Ish – Thinking – Thinkibility Boost

As an introduction to a series of blogposts about conceptual thinking we will start by paying attention to “ISH-Thinking”. A concept is an abstract pattern in the brain that stands for some regular, recurrent aspect of the world, and to which  any number of different words can be attached. Sometimes ago we already pointed out the relation between thinking and language, as in our posts How Thinking Patterns are CreatedBanging the World into Sorting Boxes and Key Concepts as Optical Filters. As we see in the picture below a toddler is confronted with a an almost insoluble problem. He has to place a square block in a box, which, however, only has openings in the form of a circle and a triangle. ISH-thinking

Perhaps the toddler might solve the problem by redefining the block as two pyramids stuck together. The block is “pyramid-ish” and might fit the triangle opening.

In our daily lives, we often try to give meaning to a diffuse situation by drafting a metaphor that is more or less “like-ish”. Mostly the metaphor does not fit exactly, at least not literally.

  • by doing that he stuck a knife in my back
  • I feel butterflies in my belly
  • at this moment she is very instable
  • their relationship is stormy

Mostly we don’t have any problem at all in using these ill-defined concepts. It helps us to articulate confusing and in particular emotional situations to “get grip on them”. Less prevalent is “ish-thinking” to describe seemingly well-defined physical objects. You will rarely hear someone who discusses a concrete thing (a bridge, a museum, a coffee shop) as ” thing-ish” like bridge-ish, museum-ish, coffee shop-ish). Yet, Starbuck is coffee shop-ish. Also, a kind of museum which would work like a modern library could be called museum-ish or library-ish: Art-works will be transported from the basement to the museum room at the request of the museum visitor, like in libraries with books.

And this is surely “bridge-ish”:


In this instance it’s about inviting people to cross a body of water in an unconventional manner… by using an inflatable bridge equipped with giant trampolines.

Is it a bridge or is it a gigantic trampoline? Or both, or more or less?

We are sure that the moment you begin to think about an ish-bike, an ish-refrigerator, sunglasses-ish or a sweater-ish for the winter, you will get rid of existing preconception on how they should look. Instead, you may  start to think about alternative forms and functions. That is because by adding the suffix “ish” to the noun, you give yourself permission to think in alternative designs. We came across a similar idea (Ïsh-thinking- ish”) in Fuzzy Concepts:

A fuzzy concept is a concept of which the boundaries of application can vary considerably according to context or conditions, instead of being fixed once and for all. This means the concept is vague in some way, lacking a fixed, precise meaning, without however being unclear or meaningless altogether. It has a definite meaning, which can become more precise only through further elaboration and specification, including a closer definition of the context in which the concept is used.”

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept. fuzzy conceptTo follow our future series on Conceptual Thinking, subscribe to the blog

Where To Search for New Ideas? – Thinkibility Nibble

Where to search for ideas A surgical team in a hospital realised that their activities became more and more complex, partly because of the treatments that they were offering but also by an increase of the number of people involved. They looked for better ideas, outside their box of thinking. They visited an aircraft carrier, a pit stop at auto races, a plumber’s skills contest and a high risk chemical plant. What kind of ideas may they have got? From the seemingly chaos at a flight deck of an aircraft carrier: How repairs are practised as fast as possible at pit stop: From a plumbers’ skill contest:to get ideas how to repair clogged arteries: They also realised that they were far behind aviation regarding safety standards and creating a “fail safe” culture. They approached safety expert from NASA and chemical and other high risk industries. Slowly medical teams are introducing Failure Mode and Effect Analysis, a structural approach to decrease errors.  There are lots of ideas that can be derived from outside your area of knowledge and your circle of colleagues. There are lots of areas of experience you are not normally connected to and which may be loosely related to your job. Perhaps there are no connections at all between your domain of operating and where fresh but proven ideas can be found. A department of accountants is worrying about the increasing data they had to process and at the same time the increasing demand for reliability and speed. What do you think they will turn to? They will ask the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, a European research organization whose purpose is to operate the world’s largest particle physics laboratory. How do they process large data sets?