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Follow the Fear

Presented by: Tim Washer, Keynote Speaker, Ridiculous Media

Fear is the #1 killer of creativity in workplaces across North America and in parts of the Falklands. Worry about being fired for being different and self-doubt of not being good enough lock us into mediocrity and stock images of handshakes. Comedy writers and improvisers understand how to silence the inner critic and move forward fearlessly to create something beautiful. In this session, Tim Washer teaches the audience how to:

1. Reframe “mistakes” to see them as a required step in the creative process
2. Build an encouraging environment that fosters risk-taking
3. Brainstorm approaches to transform yourself into an idea factory

Session Notes

Before the presentation started, Tim warmed up the audience with casual conversation about comedy. This demonstrated his passion for making it fit into anyone's life, and the value it holds. As he presented he shared quips, and hit punchlines, but also made an effort to share human truths and bring his funny side back down to earth for the audience.

Barriers to Creativity 

1.  Complexity

  • Tim worked on a project called The Simplification Project: though it sounds simple, when you take the word “simple” and double the number of letters in it – you’re doing something wrong.
  • The more slides in the deck, the less the presenter knows about the topic.

2.  Committee

  • A lot of the time committees and meetings can reduce creativity.
  • Avoid this by making sure you’re aware of everyone’s priorities going into the project.
  • Everyone is an artist, including marketers, though we don’t think it cause we’re in an office a lot of the time

3. Over Analysis

  • When we feel doubt about something we protect ourselves through analysis 
  • Take the Jean Claude Van Damme ad “Epic Split” as an example. The beauty of this is how simple (yet crazy) the idea is. 
  • Usually, ideas like this get shut down and we doubt ourselves.

Improv Rules

  1. Fear is a compass; it tells you where to go
  2. There are no mistakes, only gifts
  • If you adopt this way of thinking at the office and in life, you’ll feel a lot braver about life and taking risks. 
  • When Tim’s kids were growing up, his daughter would act out and be mean to others. He was afraid she would lose friends and he would lose his relationship with her. Out of fear he figured he should discipline her more when he should have just been connecting with her.
  • So instead of disciplining her when she would act out, he would just try to make her laugh. Now they do comedy together and have a close relationship. He was able to turn the whole situation from something potentially negative into something positive.

How to Come Up with Ideas 

  • Your worst enemy is the blank page 
  • Brainstorming exercises: 
  1. Random word juxtaposition
  • Pick two random nouns and then write what each of them reminds you of, then try to connect them.
  • With this, you can make associations and draw connections out of something really silly 
  1. Juxtapose your service with a pop culture icon/moment
  • The Center for Disease Control created an online novel about zombies when the show, The Walking Dead was really popular. The story was about what to do "when the zombies come” (an outbreak of a disease in real life)
  • This generated 3.6 billion viewers and 5 million downloads 

3. Juxtapose a Hollywood hero/villain with everyday life 

4. Juxtapose your product with your favourite myth

  • Usually, a myth constitutes an idea that has flaws, a question or a problem that needs to be solved/explain. Drop your product into that myth and see if it can solve it.

5. Juxtapose your product with a ridiculous American political protocol 

6. Juxtapose your product with a holiday

  • Why would your product be the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.? 

7. Captions

  • Look at a picture and ask “what else might this be?” or “what else may have happened right before this picture was taken?”

Key Takeaways

  • The reason you need to follow your fear and the reason you’re scared is that it's uncharted territory
  • There are no mistakes, only gifts