Friday, November 20, 2009

Get Novel with More Thinking Partnerships Like the Coen Brothers

Channel hopping led me to an interview with the Coen brothers about their new film “A Serious Man”. While I tuned in somewhat to excerpts from and discussion about the film, I was more fascinated by their mannerisms and what makes them click.

For the longest time, Ethan just hung his head as if he were someplace else while Joel answered most of the interviewer’s questions. With slumped shoulders Ethan sure wasn’t putting his best foot forward as the pros recommend for interviews. But, suddenly he lit up, sat up and went on at length in a deep academic way expanding upon the nuances of their films. Hmmm. No slouch after all.

The Coen brothers have been a tour de force for over 20 years directing and producing numerous quirky, clever, very creative and often “dark” yet popular films. What makes them tick? How do they come up with such unusual plot lines which parody life and still capture our imaginations?

They must take lots of “walks in the park”, work on being positive and are good observers of their own thinking. We have the hard science now from neuroscientists that these approaches do increase insights and the ability to see novel solutions to new problems.

The approaches combined quiet the brain allowing more holistic connections to be made. Moments of insight emerge not from working harder but from backing off to allow subtle signals to be noticed. Too much noise (anxiety, busyness, time pressure, etc.) stop novel answers from emerging.

Thinking partnerships help too. Like the Coen brothers where one brings a lot of detail to the situation and the other sees the big picture. At least that’s my impression. Looking at their background, Ethan studied philosophy. That’s a big picture abstract level of thinking. On the other hand, Joel studied film making and music video production---still very creative challenges yet more at the 1,000 foot level than the 50,000.

Google, IDEO, 3M, Southwest Airlines and many other well known and highly successful organizations leverage “insight-making” on purpose. It’s good for business as their bottom lines demonstrate. One common thread is that they make a point of having fun, a sure fire way to let out the weird and wonderful ideas.

The blueprint is clear for increasing the odds of novel thinking to make an appearance. This is no time to be shy! In this still tough environment, quieter brains must prevail to help us through.

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