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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

Disciplined Dreaming by Josh Linkner


I finished this book in July 2023. I recommend this book 7/10.

Get your creative mind spinning for your business with practical tips for yourself or for your next team's offsite.

Get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • P29. Although the Disciplined Dreaming process gives you a step-by-step approach, you will get the most from it if you learn to "look sideways" throughout the process. Here are some tips to consider as you allow your mind to explore in new directions:

    • Tolerate ambiguity. There will be times when things don't add up or you feel as though you are off track. These are often the situations where you are getting very close to a breakthrough.

    • Avoid "right" and "wrong" answers.

    • Accept ruts and grooves. There will be times when you feel as though nothing is clicking.

    • Listen.

    • Don't be rigid or stubborn.

    • Seek input. The more diverse minds you can deploy against your challenge, the more possibilities you will be able to consider.

  • P44. Example of The Creativity Brief (See template folder.)

  • P56. The disciplined dreaming process is designed to ignite both your left brain (logical) and your right brain (creative). The accountant meets the artist. The engineer meets the poet.

    • Creative visualization. There is great power in deeply tuning in to what you are trying to create. Engage each of your five senses to fully visualize the ultimate solution to your creativity challenge. What would it look like? Feel like? Sound like? Smell like?

    • Zooming out. Zoom out to take a "satellite view" of your challenge. To do that, you will need to get rid of assumptions.

    • Death by questions. Dr. Hal Gregersen recommends identifying a problem and writing nothing by questions about it for ten minutes a day for thirty days.

  • P68. Make new hires complete an "Astonishment report" Within thirty days after their start date. They are asked to list everything that is astonishing to them., both good and bad, about their new place of business. The rationale is that outsiders notice things that have been normalized to incumbents.

  • P70. Five skills separate the most accomplished innovators from the rest:

    • Associating. This skill involves creating links between seemingly unrelated items. Consider symphonic music with snack food, typography with travel, and catering with construction.

    • Questioning. Why? What if? Why not? and in addition, What could? How might? If...then what about? Have you thought about it?

    • Observing.

    • Experimenting.

    • Networking. Seek as much diversity as possible; in age, gender, political views, educational background, career role, religious perspectives, and geographical locations.

  • P73. We had recently won a great new client, UPS. When we shipped out a packet of sales materials related to our first promotion, what did we do? We sent the materials in a brightly colored FedEx box! I was stunned by the lack of awareness that would allow anyone to fill out a form with a giant purple and orange FedEx logo in the corner and address it to UPS. But I was even more disappointed with my employee's response "Our shipping contact is with FedEx."

  • P84. Warm-up moves for a team creative meeting:

    • Rock the house. Blast three minutes of your favorite music.

    • The improv. One person starts and says a few words or a sentence. The next person has to continue the story where the first person left off. The one rule: you can't say no.

    • Games. Play a game (any game) for five minutes.

    • Inspirational quotes. Print a list of relevant quotes, go around the room, and have each person read one quote slowly and out loud. After reading all the quotes, reflect on them. Have each person tell the group which was his or her favorite and why.

  • P86. Ben and Jerry could have been easily convinced by their team that each new flavor was too radical or that one ingredient or another creates too much risk. Has your company ever had a great idea (the business equivalent of Cherry Garcia) that got overanalyzed and ended up as pure vanilla? Whichever form it takes, make sure that groupthink isn't diluting your creative process.

  • P96. Every great structure requires ongoing maintenance. You can keep your creative culture alive and flourishing by making sure your operation is guided by these seven critical rules:

    • Fuel passion.

    • Celebrate ideas.

    • Foster autonomy.

    • Encourage courage.

    • Fail forward.

    • Think small.

    • Maximize diversity.

  • P115. The concept of removing yourself from your normal physical surroundings for a period of intense creativity at an off-site location is a long-standing and proven approach. Finding a place that is inspirational, free of distraction, and fresh can make a huge difference in your creativity. Here are some best practices for conducting high-impact, creative off-sites:

    • Start with a clear objective

    • Establish ground rules. confidentiality, clarity, stay focused, and strategy: violent debate leads to action. How do we take it home?

    • Make the most of intros and endings. In music, intros and endings to songs are the most memorable aspects to an audience. Begin and end off-sites with something motivational that unites the team and gets them passionate and excited about the future.

    • Warm it up. My favorite way to start an off-site is to prepare a list of powerful quotes that are relevant to the key challenge we plan to solve, then have participants read the quotes and discuss how they relate to our challenges.

    • Create a theme. Always have one overriding theme to the off-site.

    • Sprint and break. Never go more than two hours without a quick break. Also make the rule, no phones, no checking emails.

    • Move outside your comfort zone. Include some activities—that make people feel a bit uncomfortable, but still safe and business-appropriate.

    • Get stimulated. Have music, food, games, props, toys, and anything else that can stimulate the team. Guest speakers, video clips, interactive sessions, and some evening entertainment.

    • Encourage broad participation. Your role should be that of facilitator, not lecturer. Make sure the entire team is actively participating. Let others lead some sessions.

    • Prepare. Ask people to prepare in advance for creative experience. Have them read a book or a series of articles in advance of the off-site, or conduct surveys, 360 feedback, and advance fact-finding in order to make the most of your time together.

  • P118. Find your own symbol of creativity and let it launch great ideas. Your trigger can be a specific piece of art or music, or a special word, phrase, quote, or mantra. Craig Erlich, CEO of event marketing powerhouse Pulse 220, had bottles of water labeled as "creativity juice." Even though the team knew it was only water, drinking their creativity juice during meetings somehow inspired better thinking. The key is to use this as a consistent symbol to ignite creativity, in the same way that the national anthem signifies the beginning of a baseball game or a checkered flag symbolizes the end of a Nascar race.

  • P126. In your next brainstorming session, for example, think about the issue from the perspective of a musician—or a villain, or an architect, Engineer, new guy, CEO, and competitor. By role-playing, you can find that fresh perspective yourself, even when looking at problems you've been struggling with for a long time.

  • P140. The creativity muscle is a bit like a musician who has not touched an instrument. You need to keep practicing. Go to the local bookstore and select ten magazines that you don't usually read. Find the strangest publications you can. Consider each magazine a whole new world. Then try to approach your problem from the perspective of an avid reader of that magazine. If you choose Photography Today, for example, ask how a professional photographer would approach your problem. Then try Cigar Aficionado, Florida Lifestyle, and Modern Trumpet Weekly.

  • P164. The eight commandments of ideation:

    • Thou shall not judge. Let ideas flow.

    • Thou shall not comment. Let the ideas flow.

    • Thou shall not edit. Let the ideas flow.

    • Thou shall not execute. Let the ideas flow.

    • Thou shall not worry. Let the ideas flow.

    • Thou shall not look backward. Let the ideas flow.

    • Thou shall not lose focus. Have a parking lot.

    • Thou shall not sap energy. Ban phones and computers, and keep the spirit high.

  • P172. Here are some ways the SCAMPER technique is reflected in the product development efforts of the giants of the industry:

    • Substitute. Corn flakes lead Bran flakes, puffed rice helped launch Rice Krispies.

    • Combine. Raisin bran was born from combining bran flakes with raisins. Honey, plus nuts, with Cheerios. Apple and cinnamon with your oatmeal.

    • Adapt. Cinnamon Toast Crunch came from borrowing the flavor of cinnamon toast and then adapting it into a cereal recipe. Take chocolate chip cookies and turn it into a cereal.

    • Magnify or minimize. Frosted Wheat became Frosted Mini Wheats.

    • Put to other use. Rice Krispie Treats are not packaged in separate units and sold as a competitor to the candy bar. Corn flakes are used in dozens of recipes, like, breading for chicken.

    • Eliminate. Without nuts, reduced fat, sugar-free, only whole grains.

    • Rearrange, or reverse. M&M—plain, with peanuts, or almonds, or peanut-butter, dark, brownie—OR mix them all together.

  • P175. To begin, list as many "ingredients" as possible. If you are working on a better way to deal with customer complaints, list all the current ways you handle the complaints along with all the other examples you can find from your industry and other industries. Maybe an unrelated field such as high-end hospitality does one thing while a fast-food burger joint does something very different. Once you have a long list of possible ingredients, try random combinations to see if you can get a better end result by combining two things that were previously unconnected. To push your thinking even further, include random things or ideas on your list. In the previous example, what if you included a touch-screen kiosk? Or a gardening tool? Or a set of paintbrushes? Or a Broadway musical? Or an Oprah Winfrey?

  • P186. How to select your best ideas:

    • Create a Matrix and rank:

      • Low initial investment

      • Easy to implement

      • Requires little training

      • Fast change timeline

      • Low safety hazards

      • Low ongoing costs

      • Low operation risk

      • Long-term benefit

    • Poker chip method. Each member only gets a couple of votes.

    • Trial by jury

    • Value mapping. CHIFF (clever, high quality, innovative, friendly, and fun.) NAF (novel, attractive, and feasible.)

    • Creativity scorecard:

      • Does it meet your desired outcome

      • Does this idea solve your original problem

      • How strong of an impact will this idea make on your company and your career

      • How well will your idea be received by your targeted audience

      • How strong is the return on investment

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