The other morning as I was tidying up our kitchen I came across a container with one lonely prune left in it. Rather than throw it out, I was inspired to put it to better use. I carefully placed it by our sugar and coffee cannisters with the intention of passing it off as a giant mouse dropping to my wife who harbors a keen aversion to rodents (don’t ask why she married me).
I quickly went to enroll my 2 teenage daughters in the ruse. Lexie, my younger daughter and the tougher of the two, smiled rolled her eyes and accepted the invitation. Renie was a shoe-in and when she saw the prune immediately picked it up, admonished me for being lame in the presentation and started pulling off pieces to make it look more realistic.
The timing was perfect. Lexie, Renie and I were in the kitchen at the exact moment Ali came down the stairs. I raised my eyebrows at Lexie and just as Ali approached the counter, Lexie let out a scream worthy of an Oscar. Renie joined in and within seconds so did Ali who then went running out of the kitchen and down the hall yelling, “What is it?!” She hadn’t even seen the faux feces yet.
In a slightly annoyed tone I told everybody to calm down (Renie had fallen to the floor at this point) and yelled to Ali that it wasn’t a live animal and to come back in, it was just droppings and we’d have to call the exterminator. As she looked at the prune mess with ever widening eyes she questioned how the pooh could be so big from just a mouse (unfortunately we know from droppings having had a field mouse family living with us earlier in the winter).
In a moment of pure improvisational inspiration Renie immediately chimed in that maybe a possum had made it’s way into the house, which was entirely plausible because we’d had run-ins with them on our porch. I gingerly picked up the artificial turd, examined it, sniffed it and licked it. There was a brief look of confusion on Ali’s face and then an angry smile as she realized the whole thing was a joke. There was more yelling and laughing as we started our day.
My long-winded point here is that I got two groggy teenagers so juiced up and inspired that they executed our prank flawlessly – which is no small feat. The same dynamic applies to creative teams. If you can position a project in a way that inspires and engages them, they will raise the bar both on an individual and group level. So the next time you take on a project, look for a perspective that inspires everyone involved. This is not an easy task but the payoff is huge.