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:


Feelings Are An Asset To Thinking

Many people have the opinion that feelings distract thinking, and the best is to get rid of them.
We came across a view from Dennis Perrin who in contrast states: “Feelings are an asset to thinking”.
Dennis Perrin is running Thinking Training in the UK, providing courses in Lateral thinking, Six Thinking Hats and the Power of Perception.
We invited him to explore his idea that takes into account feelings that will improve your thinking. Here is his short essay on the topic.

Feelings are more important than thinking. In the end, thinking is for human happiness, projects, improvements, and ideas that create benefits. So, feelings have a very important place in thinking. This is why Dr de Bono created the Red Hat, a Hat specially for feelings, emotion, intuition, hunches, and yes, ideas.

Years ago, I used to think that the more emotional I was, the more likely it would be that God would answer a prayer. Children know that by crying or raising a tantrum, that their parents will then see to their needs. I remember at age 16 praying desperately for an answer to a decision I had to make: a choice between jobs. Even so, there is still the psychological element that works in prayer. The feelings are made clear. When the feelings are clear, the way is also clear for good and better thinking.

We need to make a habit, from time to time, to note our feelings on an issue. We don’t want our feelings either to dominate our thinking or to masquerade as our only thinking. We want our feelings clear as feelings (intuition etc.) only. For instance, let’s say a particular FB Post makes someone feel angry. The angry response can be posted under the Red Hat. Then some relevant factors (white hat) can be thought about. Or a post can simply say: These are my feelings. (Just state them.)

But don’t spend more than 30 seconds on just feelings.

Feelings are a hindrance if they are not stated clearly as a legitimate part of the thinking. They are also a hindrance if they are allowed to dominate any proceedings.

Feelings are an asset once they are stated since everyone then knows what they are. They are an asset when they are stated because further down the road in the thinking process the feelings can be looked at again. After some thinking, feelings often change. New perceptions change feelings.

Feelings should be looked at from time to time as a measurement. A typical Red Hat (feeling) response might be: “An hour ago I felt annoyed but after this thinking I feel happy.” Or: “My red hat tells me that I should think seriously about this issue before I make a final decision. I may want to change everything.”


Thank you, Dennis!


I Am a Depressive Character – You’re Absolutely Right

This post is about patterns or logical bubbles in psycho therapy. As we will see there are some parallels with lateral thinking.

lateral thinkingThere are several reasons why a person attends psychotherapy. Someone may attend psychotherapy because she is suffering because she thinks herself into a situation she doesn’t want to be in. She visits  a psychotherapist to get an alternative for her mental state. Or someone visits a therapist because he does something compulsively, and wants to get rid of that compulsory habit. We can represent this situation as someone being caught in a destructive thinking path, as show in the image as a road from A to B. The patient is looking for an escape to an alternative path to help them get into another thinking or behavioral habit. In the picture represented as side way C.

Some readers will recognize this as the way Edward de Bono explains main stream thinking and lateral or creative thinking. With main stream thinking we mean how  humans normally and routinely make sense of, interpret, represent or model the world they experience, and to make predictions about that world (A -> B). The thinking involved with discovering new inventions, coming up with new ideas and concepts and non-obvious alternatives need breaking away from standard thinking patterns (A -> C)


An assumption in psychotherapy is that the therapist has to diagnose the patient before a treatment plan can be made. In order to do that the therapist will delve into patient’s past, his problems, how he solved them, and how he digests uncomfortable feelings and emotions. Psychotherapists must be  ood active listener: re-stating or paraphrasing what they have heard in their own words, encouraging the patient to express feelings, showing complete understanding and empathy.The therapist is responsible for a solution. That solution is per definition outside the standard thinking or behavioral patterns of the patient, so a big challenge is the acceptation of therapist’s solution by the patient. If he doesn’t do that, the therapist is not professional enough. This phenomenon is called psychological resistance  in which patients either directly or indirectly oppose changing their behavior or refuse to discuss, remember, or think about presumably clinically relevant experiences.

Everyone who ever ventilated a breakthrough idea – an idea outside accepted thinking – will recognize this mechanism. It is rejection and you will have to come up with a better idea, That is why much therapy processes takes years. The patient refuses to alter his thinking, so the therapist is forced to make a better diagnose. Both patient as therapist are caught in a perpetual pattern in which the patient does not want to leave his comfort zone, a behavioral state within he operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.


Does this remind you of a situation in which you do want to come up with fresh ideas, and you are trying and trying, erring in circles with no results? You are still in main-stream thinking (A->B).

An alternative to classical psycho therapy is Provocative Therapy, invented by Frank Farrelly which advocates radical (and sometimes humorous therapeutic moves intended to jolt the client out of his current mindset.

That is exactly what lateral thinking also is about. To escape from taken for granted thinking to alternative perceptions by deliberately setting up Provocations.

Imagine, someone tells you that she is depressed. Normally you would comfort her, you would do your best to cheer her up, give her a fresh look on the situation or just show empathy. But what if you respond that she is absolutely right and perhaps still far too cheerful? What would happen?

Regarding Jeffrey Wijnberg there are some rules that form the basis of Provocative Psycho Therapy. As you will notice, these are radical different as what therapists usually do:

  1. The therapist gets an equal speaking time as the client;
  2. The therapy starts immediately as the patient enters the clinic;
  3. The therapist uses deliberately no structure during the talks;
  4. The therapist never use hands solutions;
  5. The therapist tries to get in the “laughing state”as soon and well as possible;
  6. The therapist don’t prepare the sessions, but transfers that task to the client;
  7. The therapist uses a (played) pessimistic attitude;
  8. The therapist understands little or nothing of the deeper meanings of what the client tells him;
  9. The therapist is paradoxical in his communication: non-verbal he is signalling warmth, passion, empathy) but verbally he is critical, provocative (doubt, challenging, incomprehension);
  10. The therapist says whatever comes to him.

Please note, it is vital to create a “safe container” when using Provocative Therapy. The work is carried out in an environment designed to be positive, there is a regard for the client and a belief in their capacity for change.


Controlled Behavior by Design


Design has been used throughout history to control our behavior. Hausmann designed  the broad avenues in Paris with the aim to better control riots and revolutionary uproars. There are designs  that prevent you from lying on a bench, so called anti homeless benches. Citizens have built low viaducts to prevent buses going into the town to prevent low-income inhabitants to enter the town. These kinds of designs aims towards controlling behavior in  a man-made environment.

Sometimes designs are used to  encourage safe or healthy behavior.

  • Speed bumps slow down cars without any need to have a police man present. In some countries speed bumps are called sleeping policeman.
  • Red strips along a road mark the way for cyclists and increase their safety.
  • Sidelines on roads produce sounds when you drive over it, to warn you to stay on course.

Other examples are less innocent, schools, prisons and military barracks are examples of disciplinary architecture.

The arrangement of chairs affects our behavior. Each arrangement produces different interaction patterns.

  • Chairs in a meeting rooms could be arranged along a large table, at the end of the table is  the chairman.
  • The chairs could also be arranged in a full circle, or U-form.

In many merchants ships the quarters of the crews are deliberately designed to enhance possibilities of encounters with other crew members.

In government buildings, the automatic doors are  adjusted in a way that forces the entrants to slow down their speed, which in theory should have consequences for their behavior inside the building (they should act in a calm manner).  Some interpret this as a kind of systemic violence.

Artifacts  have politics. Langdon Winner says: ” The machines, structures, and systems of modern material culture can be accurately judged not only for their contributions to efficiency and productivity and their positive and negative environmental side effects, but also for the ways in which they can embody specific forms of power and authority”

We will take this idea somewhat further into the digital age. Are there architectures of control in the digital environment? Could it be that the lay-out of software programs and apps forces specific behavior and exclude other behavior?

Recently we experienced  the downfall of the de Bono Society, an information based and social networking site for people interested in de Bono’s approach to thinking. We assume that the members were familiar with the principles of Parallel Thinking – a fundamental concept in this thinking framework. Parallel Thinking is an alternative for “adversarial” thinking. The aim is to open up possibilities, to explore situations and to escape linear thinking.


However, the approach to thinking in the de Bono Society was all but Parallel. Often contributors fell into  the trap of proving that statements were wrong, classifying arguments as false or true and blocking discussions that seem to be going in unexpected yet interesting ways. We described this mechanism already in our blog post Dialectical Thinking or Kick-Box Thinking  as basically linear thinking.

Why then was the de Bono Society a failure and a disaster for proving the value of Parallel Thinking? Were the members not skilled enough?

We don’t think so. The contributors were lured into dialectical thinking because of the linear design of site. The lay-out of the site did not encourage parallel thinking. It might even have discouraged it.  The site used the standard dialectical lay-out as used in sites as LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.  It was not designed for Parallel Thinking. As such it had unintended consequences for the thinking performed by its members.

We desperately need software and apps that are deliberately designed for Thinkibility. Software and apps that control our thinking behavior in a more constructive way.


Trust or Trustworthiness? – Thinkibility Boost

trust 2

Trust or Trustworthiness?

When searching for ideas for our forthcoming book about Information  & Feelings, a sequel to Positive & Negative in the serie Thinkibility – Thinking about Thinking, Creativity Innovation and Design we stumbled on a broad range of emotions and feelings.

If you search this blog on keywords like emotion, feelings and intuition you will find some noteworthy explorations of what Edward de Bono calls Red Hat Thinking. Today we will explore the social construct of trust.

In our opinion trust is basically a non-rational phenomena, yet not irrational, nevertheless,  it should be carefully handled.

Wikipedia describes Trust as “One party (trustor) is willing to rely on the actions of another party (trustee); the situation is directed to the future. In addition, the trustor (voluntarily or forcefully) abandons control over the actions performed by the trustee. As a consequence, the trustor is uncertain about the outcome of the other’s actions; he can only develop and evaluate expectations. The uncertainty involves the risk of failure or harm to the trustor if the trustee will not behave as desired.”

Trust plays an important, perhaps decisive role in relations between people and groups, but also in the relation to governments, institutions, judges.  Often it is said that economic growth relies heavily on how traders trust each other. Trust even plays a role in dealing with material artifacts and technology. By trusting someone we can rely on her, allowing us to concentrate our actions and thinking on other subjects. Trust is a tool for efficiency and specialization.

Nowadays there is a moral call for Rebuilding Trust. There has even been a TEDx conference around this theme organized by the  Radboud University in the Netherlands. For an overview of the variety on subjects and the speakers, look here.

But we came across a much more constructive term when we are discussing the concept of  Trust. It is about Trusthworthiness. In general, in order for trust to be earned, worth and integrity must be proven over time.

A good overview of standard thinking and misconceptions about trust is given by Onora O’Neill in her TEDx presentation “What we don’t understand about trust”. Strongly recommended notwithstanding the sometime what boring way of presentation. Watch it.


Trust is not about attitudes. It is about judgement. It is about giving usable evidence that one is trustworthy.

Making Thinking Interesting

Often it is stressed that we should be creative and search for alternative choices or possibilities.  And seldom the interpretation of a phenomenon itself is subject to creative alternatives.


In history, politics and news we follow mostly the elucidation as given by experts, journalists or opinion leaders.

In organisations, we make “sense” of what is happening but we tend to act first, and then form our ideas and opinions based on our actions, rather than vice versa (see also The Social Psychology of Organizing by Carl Weick)

In everyday life we often interpret behavior as a result of, at least for us, an obvious cause. The diagnosis of the cause may be incorrect since we made an erroneous assumption. There is also a need to be creative in our  interpretations of daily events and behavior at home.

Recently I came across an scientific article from 1971article called That’s Interesting! by Murray S. Davis. Although written in the context of what do make social theories interesting while  others do not, it gives us some good hints to construct alternative explanations that challenge current assumptions. Those are tools to break current thinking patterns, routine patterns or the status-quo, ways to set up provocations by a figure-ground reversal.

figure ground reversal

This helps us to shift the focus of thought. It is like a painting by  M.C. Escher, where we turn our assumptions around. What was white becomes black and vice versa. We turn the view upside down and search for new insights.

What seems to be a phenomenon that is …What in reality a phenomenon that is …. Is in reality a phenomenon that is …  Seems to be a phenomenon that is……
Disorganized, unstructured     Organized, structured
Composed of assorted heterogeneous elements     Single
Individual     Holistic
Local      General
Stable, unchanging      Unstable, changing
Ineffective  Ef fEffective
Bad       Good
Unrelated, independent       Correlated, interdependent
Existing together       Not existing together
Positive co-variation       Negative co-variation
Similar, near identical      Opposite
Independent      Dependent

In one of our next posts we will give you some of the most striking examples how Reversal as a thinking strategy has led to scientific and other inventions.

However, using reversal as a creative thinking technique is not restricted to interpretations of daily life, the news, politics, history or organizational behavior.

It can also be applied for devising exciting stories. As an intellectual holiday task, we challenge you to send us a short story where you have used one of above mentioned reversals (in the comment box).

Happy Thinkibility!

Intelligent Gossip at the Water-cooler

Learning how to gossip intelligently is a powerful instrument for serious self-critism, because it is much easier to identify the mistakes of others than that of our own. So, make a habit of criticizing the thinking of others.

This is the opinion of Daniel Kahneman, who argues that to become a good thinker we need to acquire a large set of diagnostic labels to identify thinking errors, like those that are available for physicians. In his bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow, he explains the vocabulary he developed in conversations with Amos Tversky since the 1970’s. They spent several years studying and documenting bias of intuitive thinking in various tasks – assigning probabilitiesforecasting the future, assessing hypotheses and estimating frequencies.

Nowadays it is generally accepted that our minds are susceptible to systematic errors. This has led to the dominant opinion that the more rational the thinking is, the better the outcomes.

However, there are striking stories about the effectiveness of using intuition. There are surely marvels in intuitive thinking.

The psychologist Gary Klein describes a team of firefighters that entered a house in which the kitchen was on fire.

Soon after they started hosing down the kitchen, the commander heard himself shout, “ Let’s get out of here!” without realizing why. The floor collapsed almost immediately after the firefighters escaped. Only after the act did the commander realize that the fire had been unusually quiet and that his ears had been unusually hot. Together, these impressions prompted what he called a “sixth sense of danger”. He had no idea what was wrong, but he knew something was wrong. It turned out that the heart of the fire had not been in the kitchen but in the basement beneath where the men had stood”

There are other scholarsthat study intuitive thinking. In another blog post we will pay attention to Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking is a 2005 book by Malcolm Gladwell. It is all about  mental processes that work rapidly and automatically from relatively little information. It considers both the strengths of the adaptive unconscious, for example in expert judgement, and its pitfalls such as stereotypes.

There are surely marvels in using your intuition.Edward de Bono dedicated one specific thinking hat to feelings, emotions, beliefs and intuition – the  Red Hat. Doing so, he separated spontaneous thinking from deliberate rational thinking.

In the next blog we will draw a concept map about the ideas of Daniel Kahneman about the how rational thinking influences intuitive thinking, and how intuitive thinking influence rational thinking. To lift a corner of the veil: Kahneman hypotheses that there are two virtual systems working in the brain. An automatic associative memory that constructs a coherent interpretation of what is going on in our world at any instant. He calls it system 1. A much slower system 2 that prevents system 1 for biases and errors, but is a rather lazy one.

Photo: “Hole Wall And Fire” by twobee