Flying Seraph
Drink or Sleep Your Way to Amazing Ideas

I’d like to share the best lesson I ever learned about running workshops to generate new ideas.

The secret – as you’ll discover – is either a half pint of claret or a good night’s sleep. Perhaps both.

First, though, I’d like you to reflect on this:

Ever woken up with a great idea? Or stepped out of the shower having made a breakthrough? Ever wondered how on earth your brain constructs dreams by weaving together little seemingly unrelated little snippets?

I’m pretty sure you have.

It’s amazing what your subconscious can do when armed with information and left alone to go to work.

A good decade or more back, an inspiring group of Chicago-based psychologists helped overhaul the workshop process I use. Until then, I’d typically run workshops to fit peoples’ busy diaries – all on the same day.

My attitude to stuffed diaries, now, is ‘stuff the diary’. I get far better outcomes – amazing leaps – by running workshops for the same overall length of time, but spread over an afternoon and the following morning. Day 1 is a briefing/immersion session. Usually 2-5pm.

Day 2 is Imagination day – for brainstorming and other ideation techniques. Typically from 9 to midday the next day.

It’s amazing. Every time, almost without fail, I release a tired group the first evening. And then welcome in fresh faces and minds enthused by ideas that seem to have ‘come from nowhere’ overnight. Bubbling over. Desperate to be heard.

Virtually every time I set one of these sessions up, I’m asked if we really need to do it this way. I’m told how disruptive it is for participants’ schedules.

Therein lies the irony. Disruption is exactly what we need.

Disruption of convention.

Disruption of rules.

Disruption of received wisdom.

Disruption of ‘we’ve always done it this way’.

I think we paid a small fortune for the counsel we received. I don’t begrudge the psychologists a single cent. Their advice has paid for itself many times over.

Last week, however, I found a David Ogilvy quote. Years old. Here’s what he wrote:

“Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science, and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information. Then unhook your rational thought process. You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret.”

Take my word for it – David’s if you’d prefer.

Break workshops with an overnight.

When writing something that matters, don’t share it the day you wrote it.

As often as you can – sleep on it.

If all else fails, fancy half a pint of claret?


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