Over the weekend I had James Pearson (of Surviving America and Acholi Beads) and Steven Homestead staying at my house. I couldn’t help but take advantage of this abundance of creativity I suddenly found at my disposal. As a developer rather than a designer, I find the creative process to be mysterious, possibly even magical. Seeing phrases like “Enslave the Internet” written on the windows of my home, I was far from disappointed as I was treated to a rare opportunity to take a peek inside the creative mind.
People constantly tell me that as a programmer, I have to be creative to find solutions to more complex problems. However, it seems to be a different kind of creativity, because what I experienced this weekend was as foreign to me as nearly anything I’ve experienced.
I asked James if he might help me with work out a marketing strategy for Xavisys, and the first thing he asked for was a white board (preferably a few). I may not be creative, but I know the advantages of having space to scribble as you work out problems. Along the way however, I’ve gotten rid of the white board, in favor of my glass desk. I keep a collection of dry erase markers and Vis-A-Vis markers at my desk, and whenever I need to write something down, I grab one and write it right on my desk. Dry erase markers are for very short-term things, since moving things around on the desk can often erase what you’ve written. The Vis-A-Vis markers on the other hand stay just fine, until they get wet, which is perfect, because they can be cleaned off with a damp paper towel. Since it’s not very cool to cram a bunch of people around my desk in my office, I got out the markers, and we started marking up some windows in my house.
We started by talking about what Xavisys does, the mundane list of services rendered. Soon we were talking about what made Xavisys stand apart from other companies. Then, as we wrapped up the boring summation, things really stared to happen. James and Steve started spouting ideas at break neck speed. Nothing was thrown out or ignored, only built upon. I enjoy improv comedy and used to be part of a group that performed and I’ve even taught improv techniques. We had an exercise called “yes and” which taught players how to take ideas and run with them, rather than ignore them. Basically, you could not say no, or turn down any idea offered, instead you answered “yes and ____,” adding your own twist to the scene in progress. This was that game.
This method produces plenty of bad ideas. Among the tag lines that were later thrown out were phrases like “Enslave the Internet”, “Funk Shun” and “Make the internet your pool boy!” What amazed me, was that after a relatively short time, small nuggets of gold began to emerge from the dross, phrases like “Interface with the world” and “Take control of the internet.” All leading to the one diamond in the rough, “Control Your Internet.”