Innovate like Monty Python

Innovate like Monty PythonBritish actor John Cleese is best known for his comedic talent as one of the founding members of Monty Python, which makes his intellectual insights on creativity particularly fascinating. The group’s influence on comedy has been compared to The Beatles‘ influence on music.

The television series, broadcast by the BBC from 1969 to 1974, was written and performed by the cast members.  As a self-contained comedy team they had the advantage of creative control, and consequently the ensemble was able to push beyond the boundaries of what was acceptable in style and content. Some people yearn for that level of creative freedom inside of their organizations, but many do not.

John Cleese, one of the key Python cast members, offers his thoughts and insights on creative thinking in the following video from a past Creativity World Forum in Germany. He talks about creativity and points out the importance of nonconscious thinking to stimulate it.

“So what I’m saying is that if you get into the right mood, then your mode of thinking will become much more creative. But if you’re racing around all day, ticking things off a list, looking at your watch, making phone calls and generally just keeping all the balls in the air, you are not going to have any creative ideas.” ~ John Cleese

Cleese also notes the power of an immersion to stimulate thinking by shifting the boundaries of space and time to avoid interruptions and facilitate the connection to deeper creative thoughts.  We may not know where we get our ideas from, but we do know what hinders their creation. “It’s a busy life in Camelot” to quote a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Too little time to think, too many interruptions and too much pressure to complete tasks keep us out of touch with our creativity. The amount of time allocated to deep thinking and reflection may be directly proportional to the quality and quantity of creative ideas you generate on a business. It is an interesting point to consider.

In an online survey of 100 CMO’s in the U.S., across a variety of industries, I asked these business leaders to describe what they do to get in touch with their best thinking.  Not surprising, the majority of answers involved a break from the demands of the day.

Innovate like Monty Python

Here are their top five answers:

1. Get out of the office

2. Seek creative stimulation

3. Spend time on something I have passion for

4. Take physical and mental breaks from the daily grind

5. Visit customers

Original thinking remains the currency of markets today, whether in the comedic expressions of Monty Python or the originality contained in commercial ideas. “Think deeply” should be the mantra of the marketer and innovator.

image credit: freakingnews

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Donna Sturgess is the President and Co-founder of Buyology Inc and former Global Head of Innovation for GlaxoSmithKline. Her latest book is Eyeballs Out: How To Step Into Another World, Discover New Ideas, and Make Your Business Thrive.

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