Creative inspiration from comedy: John Cleese

I just finished reading a fun and insightful book by comedian John Cleese: Creativity A Short and Cheerful Guide. As you can see from the image below, there are plenty of post-its marking pages where I found some inspiring ideas! Here are three highlights I picked out to help you boost your creative brain as a marketeer.

Post by Anne Charbonneau, Manging Partner based in Amsterdam

1/ Stay in a”Beginner mindset”

Cleese compares this Buddhist concept to the “law of diminishing returns” for the mind. I would say this is relevant for any kind of thinking, not just creativity. 

We’ve all experienced this is in our first six months in a new job. A string of fresh thinking seems to appear naturally when we’re new in a role. But this begins to tail off as things become more familiar and we stop asking simple questions.

What can you do?

  • Force yourself to generate alternatives strategies. Avoid “automating” your thinking
  • Try things out and design experiments. Try to have a year of experiments planned out if you can

2/ Don’t decide until you have to

Cleese talk about the need to stay in the “uncomfotable zone”.

Nowadays, everyone seems to feel the need to deliver fast and furious solutions to everything. People also often feel discomfort with unresolved stuff. A refreshing approach can be to “delay until the deadline”. Cleese suggests we ask more often “When does this decision really need to be made?” You can then stay in the the discomfort zone until the deadline hits.

Why do this? Well, as Cleese says:

1/ you may get new information

2/ you may get new ideas

3/ Seek second opinions

Cleese mentions four questions he uses to seek feedback on his creative work: 

  • Where were you bored?
  • Where could you not understand what was going on?
  • where did you find things not credible?
  • Was there anything you found emotionally confusing?

These four questions are super helpful for creatives wishing to fine-tune ideas. But the questions also seem highly relevant for any big presentation or pitch you may have to make. Many powerpoint presentations would get shorter after this acid test!

To note, Cleese says you should seek a second opinion only once  you’ve “reached a point of sufficient clarity for someone else’s judgement to be of practical help”. This is a good reminder that timing of feedback is critical. You need to know how and when to share creative work for feedback from a broader audience.

In conclusion, whilst the comedy of John Cleese might seem a strange source of inspiration for marketing, his tips can help you be more creative.