Fuel INjected IN-house: When Upside Down Is Rightside Up

Flip problems over, see them differently.

by Sam Harrison

When discussions on the future of Viequez, Puerto Rico hit a brick wall, artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla wanted to help end the standstill.

So they created “Under Discussion” — a conference table turned upside down and made into a boat. They put a motor on the makeshift boat and had someone cruise it along the shores of Vieques to attract attention.

“In our work, we’re constantly trying to find some sort of meaning in form and then flip it upside down,” says Allora, “because by doing that all of a sudden you see it differently.” Inside companies, it’s often tempting to follow the crowd or repeat what’s been done before. But that sameness leads to safe, predictable ideas.

Flipping problems upside down is a great way to move away from the masses, gain new perspectives and to generate fresh ideas. Try looking at the challenge or marketplace inside out, upside down. Apply Operation Opposite.

That’s what Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak did when they flipped the complexity of existing computers and created easy-to-use machines.

And flipping is what Dave Eggers did when he decided to launch a literary magazine. He looked at moss-worn, academic literary publications, then flipped the genre on its highbrow head with McSweeney’s quarterly magazine.

Take those projects you’ve working on and flip things upside down. Make U-turns. Head in opposite directions. Have head-on collisions with new ideas.

Sam Harrison is a speaker, workshop leader and writer on creativity-related topics. His latest book, IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your creative ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers, was released in May by HOW Books. He is also the author of IdeaSpotting: How to find your next great idea, and Zing!: Five steps and 101 tips for creativity on command.