Box of Crayons Blog


Is it time to embrace random?

My first job

My first job, when I finally staggered out of university after too many years, was with a creativity company. It was a pretty fantastic first job. Even though now they’re the biggest independent innovation agency out there, back then it was me, the two founders and a couple of other people.

As far as I could tell our main job was simply to Not Do Business As Usual. I could (and did) show up with multiple earrings, long hair and handmade trousers in purple and red paisley … and that was a good thing.

There was more to the job than just dying my hair blonde and doing parachute jumps. There was work to be done too, and as part of that adventure I spent a lot of time designing and running brainstorms as well as leading the “how to be creative” training program.The experience taught me many things, but three stand out about being creative.

  • Most brainstorms suck
    And not just ordinary-suck. But “want to staple your fingers together to alleviate the sense of this being a colossal waste of time”-suck. Holy cow. But that’s a rant for another time. (Or zip me an email about Coaching Moment #2 in our Coaching for Great Work program.)
  • People need structure to be creative.
    We’re all way more capable of generating new ideas and creating new possibilities than we give ourselves credit for. But we’re out of practice and we could do with a little help. And it doesn’t take much. A little structure and a solid dash of provocation helps people to get the ideas flowing fast.
  • Random works.
    One of the tried and true ways to jolt your brain out of the comfortable rut it’s in is to throw is something unexpected at it – and to ask a provocative question or two.

This is your brain on…

That’s not just a hypothesis. Read this article, “How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect” from the NY Times. It points to the power of the random and disconnected to actually help us think better and think differently.

The “comfortable rut” isn’t just a metaphor.Thinking the same way over and over and over and over again means that you’ve literally got pathways, channels, ruts being created between connections in your brain.

The more you think one way, the more you think one way.
Random starts making things interesting.

Watch what happens…

Let’s do a quick experiment to show you what I mean.

Think of a challenge you’ve got going on at the moment, something big or something small or something urgent or not so urgent that it would be useful to have a new idea or two about.  It can be work related or not, your choice.

OK, got something?

Here’s one of the random “flips” from the new edition of Get Unstuck & Get Going. It’s #25 of 108 in total and I’ll quote it in full.

As you’re reading it – and in particular, as you get to the questions, hold your challenge in mind…

There’s speculation about who are the “face card” characters. The kings are thought to be the Jewish king David (spades), the Greek king Alexander (clubs), the Roman king Caesar (diamonds), and the Frankish king Charlemagne (hearts).

If you could raise an army, what would you get them to do?
What would be the bold gamble to take?
What if you had to “fold” and stop playing? How might that serve you?

Don’t rush on.

Come back to that first question – “If you could raise an army, what would you get them to do?” – and apply it your challenge. Come up with one idea now.

And what else would you get them to do?

And what else?

Now tackle the second question: “What would be the bold gamble to take?” Think of a bold action to take.

What else could you do that would be bold, courageous, brave, risky?

And what else?

Ok, last question now: “What if you had to ‘fold’ and stop playing? How might that serve you?”

How would it?

And how else?

And how else?

(Right. Everyone take a breath.)

Why possibilities?

So, pretty cool eh?  I didn’t know your challenge, but a random piece of information and some good questions and you start generating new possibilities.

And why does that matter?

  • Because if you can create new possibilities, you have more options to chose from.
  • And when you have options to chose from, you’ve moved from stuck to unstuck.
  • And it’s much harder to play the victim when you’ve got choices.
  • And with better choices, you’re more likely to take a breath, be courageous, and choose something that will take you closer to your Great Work.

Get Unstuck & Get Going on the stuff that matters

It’s not too late to jump on the “Please let me know about the early bird specials” waiting list … or as we like to refer to it
the Red Carpet Velvet Rope VIP Club Exclusive Platinum with Diamond Studs Bling Bling A-list list.

It does what it says on the cover – gets you unstuck – by combining the best of what I know about creativity, coaching and facilitating so you can self-coach yourself to new possibilities and to action.

The first edition was a hit – it won awards, got praised by everyone from Anita Roddick of the Body Shop to Steven Lundin of Fish! fame, from Seth Godin to Peter Block.

Gay Hendricks, one of the Big Kahunas in the world of personal development (you can listen to my interview with Gay here) said this about the first edition: “Engaging, useful and beautifully designed. In fact, I can’t think of a book that I’ve ever seen that was as attractive and fun to read.”

And I think the second edition is even better

You can see me telling the story of how Get Unstuck came to be and demo-ing the first edition here.

In this new edition, you can combine the 108 flips in almost 50,000 different combinations. This isn’t a tool that wears out or gets boring.

So why sign up?

Well, the benefit is that you’ll get a juicy bonus or two that I’ll be releasing only for the people on this list.

And there’s no downside – other than getting a couple of extra emails inviting you to take advantage of the aforementioned juicy bonuses. No obligation, no incessant nagging.

We’re going to close the Red Carpet Velvet Rope VIP Club Exclusive Platinum with Diamond Studs Bling Bling A-list list soon, and launch the book formally at the end of October.

Smart people thinking out loud about randomness.

“Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.”
William Plomer, author

“We are glorious accidents of an unpredictable process with no drive to complexity, not the expected results of evolutionary principles that yearn to produce a creature capable of understanding the mode of its own necessary construction.”
Stephen Jay Gould, scientist

“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going
over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t
see from the center.”
Kurt Vonnegut,Jr. author

“Practice random acts of kindness and senseless beauty.”

“I have known uncertainty: a state unknown to the Greeks.”
Jorge Luis Borges, author

“I am an unpredictable journey.”
Claire Forlani, actress

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.”
Roald Dahl, author

“Anyone who attempts to generate random numbers by deterministic means is, of course, living in a state of sin.”
John von Neumann, mathematician

One Response to Is it time to embrace random?

  • Mireille Alber

    It’s official — The MBS Rock-o-meter has received another hit!

    Today you’ve managed to both delight me with your colourful storytelling, AND get me to really stop in order to fully absorb these stimulating insights.

    And by the way, the count is now officially at THREE hits. Not two, as you may be thinking, since I forgot to write in on the day when the count hit two. That was the day you sent us the cartoon comparin Pixar and Dreamworks. BOYS did the message of Great Work ever sink in that day. And did I ever get some big laugh time out of it too… still today I think of it and chuckle!

    (And yes, of course I know you’re not to take all the credit since you didn’t actually create the cartoon… but we all know that’s BS to a certain degee — the best minds know when to recognize and share other people’s fantastic ideas for the greater good, in this case: Great Work.)

    Overall, I salute your efforts to make your blog just the right “Party mix” for our minds and hearts: a bit of thoughtfulness, a bit of random-insights-ness, a bit of funny-ness and a good deal of real-ness.

    So… here we go…

    YOU ROCK!!

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