Disciplined Dreaming


The Disciplined Dreaming system is 5 steps:

  1. Ask – Identify and clearly define your challenge (whatever the size)
  2. Prepare – Meet the challenge you’ve identified. Prepare mentally and physically for the creative process
  3. Discover – Explore every avenue that might lead to creative ideas
  4. Ignite – Techniques for sparking creativity and generating more and better creative ideas
  5. Launch – Make your ideas a reality and put your plans into action

There are 4 factors driving the need for constant creativity

  1. Commoditization – The moment you have first mover advantage, someone is copying your idea and making it faster and cheaper than you
  2. Speed – Business cycles are shorter and product profitability is fleeting
  3. Low Barriers – Except a couple industries, anyone can enter your market for close to nothing
  4. Lower Cost – Once launched for close to nothing, it cost close to nothing to manufacture and produce a product to disrupt you

3 strategies to help you win

  1. Relentless Selling
  2. Building the Brand
  3. Offering Something Unique

Culture Indicators for Creativity

  1. Autonomy – Team members are in control of their own performance, experience, and results
  2. Passion – “Players” are driven by something bigger than just the task at hand
  3. Risk – The working environment celebrates risk and failure
  4. Innovation – New ideas are rewarded
  5. Listening – Emphasize raised awareness and connectedness to the environment

3 categories of creativity challenges

  1. Breakthrough Innovation – Rewrite the rules of the game
  2. High-Value Change – Significant improvement in current environment that offer tangible value
  3. Everyday Creativity – Change the way you think and behave in everyday work

Lateral thinking – thinking that seeks new ways of looking at a problem rather than proceeding by logical steps”

Tips for Lateral thinking

  • Tolerate Ambiguity – Its the darkest before the dawn as you create
  • Avoid “right” and “wrong” answers
  • Accept ruts and grooves – Focus more on driving curiosity than forcing results
  • Listen – Stay open minded
  • Don’t be rigid or stubborn
  • Seek input – The more diverse minds you can apply, the better

Step 1 – Ask

Build and use a creativity brief

  1. Describe the desired outcome (1 sentence)
  2. Defining the Creativity Challnege
    1. What is the problem you are solving for
    2. Can you restate it in a few different ways? What about reversing it?
    3. Write 20 questions about your challenge?
    4. What is the need for change?
    5. What value is created by doing something new?
    6. What is a simile for the challenge?
    7. Can you establish a “spine”? If so what is it?
    8. List key observations and assumptions about the challenge
    9. Could you paint a picture or make a model of the challenge?
  3. Situation Analysis
    1. Past
      1. What worked and didn’t work, and why?
      2. What consequences have occurred?
      3. What baggage exists?
    2. Present
      1. What are you currently doing?
      2. What is conventional wisdom?
      3. What is the status quo, and who is trying to protect it?
    3. Future
      1. What does the ideal solution look like for this challenge?
      2. How will the world be better if you get this right?
      3. What difference will a great outcome have on your company, your career, or both?
  4. The Resistance
    1. People: Who would lose if this problem were solved?
    2. Obstacles: List the roadblocks that may get in your way.
    3. Cost: What are the financial considerations that could limit your creativity?
    4. What do you and your team fear?
    5. Complete this sentence: we could be completely successful in this effort if only…
  5. Target Audience(s)
    1. Whom is the idea for?
    2. Whom do you need to convince?
    3. Once implemented, whom will this idea impact?
  6. Communication Strategy
    1. How will you communicate to others about the idea?
    2. Will you seek feedback along the way or keep it quite until launch?
    3. What is your plan to roll out the idea once complete?
  7. Competition
    1. Who else is trying to solve this same challenge right now?
    2. Are there competitive ideas?
    3. Is your idea competing with other projects needing resources?
  8. Project Plan
    1. Break the challenge into smaller mini-challenges to make it easier to manage
    2. Establish the tone and style of the project
    3. List the rules of the road – dos and don’ts
    4. Set specific deliverables or outputs you expect from taking this challenge
    5. Create a timeline including key milestones dates and the people responsible for various tasks along the way
  9. Key Metrics
    1. How will you define success
    2. List 3-5 KPIs for measuring success
    3. What’s the expected ROI?

Keep curiosity open by asking:

  1. Why?
  2. What if?
  3. Why not?

5 Skills of an Innovator:

  1. Associating – Pattern recognition
  2. Questioning – Why, what if, why not
  3. Observing – Staying aware
  4. Experimenting – Test and learn
  5. Networking – Diversity of minds

Step 2 – Prepare

Creative mind and culture

7 rules of creative cultures

  1. Fuel passion
  2. Celebrate ideas
  3. Foster autonomy
  4. Encourage courage
  5. Fail forward
  6. Think small
  7. Maximize diversity

Prepare your environment for creativity

Shake up the physical space

Spend time surrounded by your challenge – war room

Get offsite

  1. Start with clear objectives
  2. Establish ground rules
  3. Make the most of intros and endings
  4. Warm the group up
  5. Create a theme
  6. Sprint and break
  7. Move outside your comfort zone
  8. Get stimulated
  9. Encourage broad participation
  10. Have people prepare

Step 3 – Discover

Look at the problem differently

Red team vs Blue team

Capitalize on inflection points – a point where one social or business trend changes trajectory and starts off in a new direction.

  • Changes in political administrations, climate, consumer preferences, foreign relations, regulation, health and fitness, tech, travel habits, fashion, music.
  • Spot the point – a defined “pre” and “post” condition

Discover new potential in a borrowed idea

Turn a problem upside down

  • Use “instead of” as your what if question

Recognize patterns

Immerse yourself in magazines – Go to a local bookstore and select 10 magazines you wouldn’t usually read. How are they different and what perspectives can your take from them. Look how that niche would attack your problem.

Step 4 – Ignite

8 commandments of ideation

  1. Thou shall not judge
  2. Thou shall not comment
  3. Thou shall not edit
  4. Thou shall not execute
  5. Thou shall not worry
  6. Thou shall not look backwards
  7. Thou shall not lose focus
  8. Thou shall not sap energy

8 best techniques for igniting creativity

  1. EdgeStorming – Take your brainstormed ideas to the absolute extremes. A better circus vs. Cirque du Soleil
    1. Start just like any other brainstorm session but when an idea comes out, have the group take it to the farthest extreme.  To make the list, the idea has to go to the ultimate extreme
  2. The Long List –  Create a long list
    1. Articulate the objective
    2. Set your idea goal – time limit and number of ideas
    3. Do short bursts – 15 minutes with breaks
  3. RoleStorming – Pretend like you are someone else
    1. Set up a seat for a pretend inspirational person
    2. At any point in the brainstorm someone can say, “X person would say Y”, “How would X attack this problem”
  4. SCAMPER – Take a problem and apply each technique to it
    1. Substitue
    2. Combine
    3. Adapt
    4. Magnify or minimize
    5. Put to other use
    6. Eliminate
    7. Rearrange or reverse
  5. The Opposite – Ask the opposite of your problem
  6. The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup – Put two things together that are unconventional
  7. The Blindfold – Keep the creative brief vague to prevent folks from going straight to an answer
    1. Brainstorm around the problem
  8. Brain Writing
    1. Everyone puts ideas on notecards and places them in the middle of the table
    2. Go around the table once all ideas are in and ask the entire group to expand on the idea

Step 5 – Launch

Now that there are a bunch of good ideas, we need to pick the best of them

  • Scoring Matrix
  • Everyone gets a vote
  • Trial by Jury
  • Value Mapping
  • Creativity Scorecard

Testing the selections:


  • Physical Model
  • Acting it out
  • Simulation
  • Making a film, song, painting a story
  • Demos

Setting your metrics: Measurement

  • Clearly define a small number of key metrics
  • Quantify and standardize your key metrics so that they are consistent
  • Align your team and stakeholders
  • Create a scorecard so the team can monitor
  • Use your insights from the key metrics to iterate

Building the action plan

  • Budget, forecast, and anticipated ROI model
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Detailed timeline with clear milestones and checkpoints
  • List of top risks and mitigations if they occur
  • Resources needed (money, people, time, equipment, facilities, travel, software, etc)
  • Communication and role out plan

Warm up

Warm up challenge – Take on a creative challenge that is completely unrelated

Energizers – Do something fun and physical at the start

Remote Architects – One person pictures a house and everyone else asks questions about it

The Magazine Story – Look at a picture in a magazine and create a story about it

Drawing – Give everyone a circle on a sheet of paper and see what they make out of it

Logic Games – Logic Games