Point of Inspiration: Fixes for Boring

Jump-starting a meeting, project, or just a conversation can make a person feel like fish out of water—no real hope of help, wide-eyed and gasping for air. Even when it’s not that bad, small talk can feel like a death knell for any possibility of something exciting or interesting emerging.


Recently we came across a book by a comedian and a journalist that offers some counsel on how to turn around inevitable moments of languishing engagement. While their suggestions are couched in humor, they touch on real topics we hold near and dear at PARAGRAPH. They point out that when we settle for merely passable communication, with a goal that nothing catastrophically awkward happen, we miss opportunities:


We stagger through our romantic, professional and social worlds with the goal merely of not crashing, never considering that we might soar. We go home sweaty and puffy, and eat birthday cake in the shower.


While there were a number of great strategies, the main take away for us was the idea of asking for stories rather than answers. Around our office we frequently talk about reframing a given question to yield a more interesting output. While this can be a difficult task, we found inspiration in the authors’ offering of alternatives to familiar, dead-end questions.


Instead of this:                                                             

What's your name?

What line of work are you in?

What's up?

How long have you been living here?

Try this:

What does your name mean? (If they don't know, ask what they want it to mean.)

How did you end up in your line of work?

Who do you think the luckiest person in the room is?

If you could blink and teleport anywhere right now, where would you go?


So if we’re thinking about a brand instead of a lackluster conversation, we might try something similar.


Instead of this:                                                              

What do people think of Brand C?

How do we get people to buy Brand C?

How does Brand C appeal to its base?

How do we make Brand C the next Apple?

Try this:

How does Brand C fit into a basic day? What comes before and after?

What does buying something in Category C mean to people?

If Brand C were a kind of combat, what would it be? (Eg, hand-to-hand, covert ninja, land war in Asia, etc).

If Brand C were irradiated and turned into a mutant, what powers would it have? Keep in mind the broadly accepted fact that all mutant powers derive from pre-existing talents or latent qualities.


The point is that asking the same old questions will probably yield the same old answers, whereas rethinking the question might result in more interesting research and more effective solutions for the client. Regardless of whether the topic of mutants comes up.