Brainstorming with Da Vinci: Chapter 22

Idea Anarchy

Disrupting the Status Quo

Some musical genres are defined by inverting the status quo. In the late sixties, many bands focused on serious lyrics, and from a clothing fashion perspective, they wore straight styles with dull colors.

Enter glam rock.

Glam rock made its debut when Marc Bolen and T. Rex went on the BBC show Top of the Pops in 1971. Bolen appeared in satin clothes and sporting silver glitter under his eyes—and with a sound that was as revolutionary as his look.

Elton John recalled the first time he heard “Ride a White Swan,” which was the first single released under the name T. Rex. John said, “This is amazing. It sounded like something that had come down from a spaceship; it was so out-there.”

This new genre combined bubblegum pop and psychedelic rock with a socio-fashion androgyny concept that included an ample amount of glitter, skin-tight satin clothes, face paint, and eyeliner. It influenced many musicians, including David Bowie, Alice Cooper, and Roxy Music.

Artists who disrupt the status quo take people out of their comfort zone to something wonderful. But you must be willing to go. In brainstorming, disruption is a gateway to divergent thinking. Many times, we restrict brainstorming to what we know—our comfort zone. Ideas tend to be obvious because the brainstorming is centered around our status quo. Only through disruption can we break out of the norm and get to what if?

Idea Anarchy Method

Idea anarchy involves inverting the status quo to generate ideas in new, uncharted territories.

Define the Status Quo

The approach is to first define the existing status quo within the North Star purpose. When defining the status quo, think about how everyone is operating within the North Star. Often, disciplines or categories gravitate to a “me too” approach. People see what others are doing and adopt it. As more and more people adopt it, the “me too” approach becomes the status quo.

Invert the Status Quo

After defining the status quo, the team will brainstorm on ideas that invert the status quo. Ideas will seem uncomfortable and foreign, and this is the goal behind inversion–to free up the mind to possibilities.

You will need to assist the team in inversion, because it will not come naturally to most people. A way to do this is through dramatic perspective, which involves painting a picture of reality that is opposite the norm. Here are some quick examples of dramatic perspective:

  • What if we created a store with no check-out?
  • What if launched a product only using social media?
  • What if we eliminated new hire orientation?
  • What if we implemented a PTO policy with no limits?

These perspectives invert the status quo of how the category is currently doing business and allows the team permission to explore radical ideas. Will you execute these ideas? Maybe. Many times, this exercise is intended to generate ideas to push the boundaries. While some idea anarchy ideas may be category redefining, other ideas may push your business to the next level.

Idea Anarchy Example
Marketing Anarchy Inspired by Phone Anxiety

In 2012, I was a part of a new business advertising pitch for Radio Shack. The pitch assignment was to come up with a campaign to make Radio Shack the go-to place for mobile phones. The status quo at the time was that most shoppers went back to their cellular providers’ store (e.g., AT&T, Sprint, Verizon) when getting a new phone. If you were Radio Shack or Best Buy, you were not top of mind and needed to disrupt the status quo to get on new phone shoppers’ radar.

To invert the status quo, we needed to come up with an idea that would break a shopper’s habit of going back to their cellular provider. We needed a disruptive experience for people to rethink their habit.

In our research, we found out that 25 percent of people replaced their phone because it was lost, broken, or stolen. For most people, losing their phone leads to a high-level of anxiety. In fact, a study done out of the United Kingdom found that about 80 percent of people experienced high levels of anxiety when their phones were taken away for an extended period. The researchers referred to this anxiety as nomophobia.

In 2012 if you lost or broke your phone, there was no quick fix. It would take days for a person to get a new phone and back to their normal connected life, and for many this lack of connectivity increased their anxiety. We spent time brainstorming on this scenario and how to create a breakthrough experience to get people connected in a matter of hours as opposed to days, therefore putting Radio Shack on people’s consideration list.