You’ve already scraped off your car and spilled your hot coffee. You might have even forgotten your healthy lunch at home. It’s true, sometimes the new year doesn’t feel like the fresh start that you had hoped for. This can be even more difficult if you’re trying to energize your content marketing team to tackle big goals. If you need help getting the creative buzz going during the sluggish winter months, these tips from Duncan Wardle, former vice president of innovation and creativity at Disney who now is a creativity and innovation consultant, can help pump up your team!


Run an Energizer

The first thing you should do is run an energizer to get people out of their original brainspace into a brainspace for ideation.

“During this exercise, you’re looking for laughter because laughter signifies that you’ve opened the door between your team members’ conscious and subconscious brains,” said Wardle. “If you think about where people get their best ideas, they might say something like in the shower, jogging, at the gym or listening to music. Your goal is to then metaphorically place them back in that mindset, which isn’t easy.”

While running an energizer, if you hear laugher you know you’ve placed them back “in the shower” and you can and you can start running the ideation session knowing your team has access to their subconscious brain.


Invite in a Naive Expert

Another thing you can do is bring in a naive expert. A naive expert is someone who is specifically chosen because they don't know what you’re working on.

“Their role is not to solve the challenge for you, but to ask specific questions and throw out ideas because they’re not worried about who they report to,” said Wardle. “Naive experts will help your team get out of their own expertise and get them to think differently simply by saying something they wouldn’t have thought.”

Because these people are “naive,” they might not know about your industry, which allows them to challenge your assumptions. In fact, these experts might actually say something silly that will make you say, “oh wait, I hadn’t thought of that.” Through this method, you can bring your team to a different brainstorming place.


Spend Time with Your Consumer or Audience

Invite in your consumer or audience and have them sit down for 10 -15 minutes to talk about their lives and how they use your product/services. While they’re talking with you, write down what they say to find clues and stimulus for ideation. For content marketing, focus groups aren't really that useful because they’re usually made up of individuals behind a two-way mirror.

“Nobody lives in a house behind a two-way mirror, so they’re not relaxed and you don’t get insights,” said Wardle. “By actually approaching your audience and asking them what they’d like to see from your brand or storytelling, you’ll be able to get much deeper understanding of what they’re interested in.”

With this technique, you can be sure that you’re getting true insights that will help you better cater your messaging to your target audience.


Yes, And…

The more expertise and experience we get, the more we all have hundreds of reasons why a new idea won’t work.

“This is what I call reductive thinking,” said Wardle. “We all think ‘no because…’ and offer up excuses like, ‘I can’t get that past legal,’ or ‘we tried that last year.’”

By simply saying “yes, and,” you open your brain up to far more ideas. If you use “yes, and” at the beginning of every sentence when ideating with someone, you’ll find your ideas will get a lot fuller and instead of “my idea” it will become “our idea.” Once you’ve done this, you can accelerate the concept to get things done. You can also use tools like, “what if,” “where else,” and “how else.”


Where Else?

Another great way to energize your team is to put your challenge or goals on a piece of paper in the middle of a table and ask, “who has already solved this problem?”

“For example, if you’re trying to attract people to a restaurant when it’s quiet, by thinking of where else in the world someone has already solved this problem, you’ll realize that Tinder is good at attracting the same demographic, and maybe so is Instagram,” said Wardle. “When you list the people who have solved the challenge you’ve been given and ask what has made them successful, the answer might be, ‘I like choosing the content I see.’ And from there, you can figure out a way to crowdsource a menu and pick a winning food option to drive people to the restaurant.”

This tactic lets you get to the underlying problem and immediately makes you start thinking differently about your challenge, whether it’s content or otherwise.

This January, don’t get the winter blues as your team energy hits a slump. With these tips, you’ll be able to restart the creative process and get your content team ready to take on ambitious goals with excitement.