The Experiment, postmortem.
You are three years old. Your mother has just placed you in a sandbox to keep you occupied while she talks to Sally, her gossipy neighbor with the bad dye job. You are told you cannot leave. You are not happy with this, but have no choice. So there you sit, nothing around you but sand and two appealing objects. One is the head of a Barbie doll. Your older sister recently beheaded it and gave it a crew cut in a ceremony known only to 8-year-old girls. Next to it lays a bright red and yellow plastic airplane missing its left wing. This is all you have. You pick up the doll head. You giggle as you squeeze it between your tiny fingers. It looks like a puffer fish. You place it back in the sand and reach for the airplane, pick it up and begin to make it fly. Then you remember the doll head. You turn the plane on its side and marvel at the shark you made. The shark chases the puffer fish. The puffer fish fights back. They make up and start a family together. The shark is crowned King of the Ocean. They have sand babies and sand dogs and sand cats. They grow old together and experience many adventures. An hour or more passes without notice until your mother grabs you to go back inside with her. Reluctantly, you leave your ocean world behind.
This experiment was a sandbox. The first sentence was a doll head, the second a broken airplane. This is what is wondrous and magnificent about creativity. Restrictions. Structure. Rules. And it’s what I love about advertising. We are given oppressive rules and mandatories that we have to make into something interesting. We have to make our ocean world. I know I have wasted many hours of my career fighting to keep a logo small or a photo black and white, when I should have been turning them into sea creatures. The most liberating thing in my life was realizing the fun was playing within the rules, not necessarily trying to break them. Yes, it is fun to break the rules, too, but sometimes it is even more thrilling to see what you can get away with without leaving the sandbox.
The other thing I wanted to point out in this experiment was the impact an individual’s life experience has on creativity. Not a single person who participated in this experiment came up with the same solution. If 50 or 100 or 1000 more people tried their hand at bridging sentence A with sentence B, not one of them would come up with the same thing. The great thing about being a human being is that no one can ever be in the exact same place at the exact same time as anyone else. Ever. That means that no one anywhere has the same perspective on anything observable in the world. What awesome power. No one can ever see anything like you can and no one can communicate what you see or hear or feel in the same way that you can. I think that is wonderful. And I am thankful for every day that I get to play in the sandbox, no matter how many toys I am given.
I do want to thank all of you for participating. There is an enormous amount of creativity in this group and I am proud to be a part of it. I learn something from you every day. Great stuff everyone.