Live from NCOF: In the Midnight Hour, What Would P.T. Barnum Do?

Orlando, FL – “Think outside the box” isn’t one of Jim McCafferty’s favorite phrases. “I say look inside someone else’s box,” McCafferty, president of JMP, proclaimed during his keynote speech here Tuesday morning.

McCafferty, who is also a magician/illusionist, centered his presentation on brainstorming for creative ideas – something he said companies should never stop pursuing. “I have 80,000 images I use for stimuli” to spark ideas, he said. “I have to come up with new ideas every single day.”

The guy who is most creative will win in the game, McCafferty said. He then demonstrated his own creativity with a card trick, coupled with three attendees imitating sounds of rain, thunder, and lightning.

McCafferty said in an effort to create value and “save the day, it isn’t always about the product.” Sometimes it’s about the process, he noted, referring to Apple’s evolution of the iPod that actually made the product easier to use.

“Are there too many buttons in your process?” McCafferty asked attendees. “Great innovation creates a dividing effect. Look outside your world. We’re transforming from a knowledge economy to a creative economy.”

Creativity, McCafferty said, is a skill that can be taught, practiced, and mastered like any other skill. What’s more, he recommended looking to nature: “Some of the best organization in the world is in nature.”

Always carry a camera or notepad, he urged, because creative ideas can appear at any time in any place due to any circumstance. And often times, McCafferty noted, less is more.

“Think about it like a five-year-old,” he said, adding that eating candy or other sugary snacks and listening to music can stimulate the thought process. “There is a wealth of information on the Internet,” he said. “You can get 20 years of education in two years searching the Internet.”

To come up with a great question is the important thing, McCafferty said. And what do you do with the great question? “Write it down three times,” he said, “because your subconscious will start to work on it.”

During brainstorming sessions, one person should take notes and they should be kept for future reference, even if they appear to be horrible ideas. “Reserve judgment,” he said. “Crappy ideas can turn into million-dollar concepts. Sell the end result. Every situation needs to be customized.”

When he spoke about looking in someone else’s box, McCafferty challenged attendees to envision how people outside your industry would approach problem-solving situations. “How would P.T. Barnum solve my problem, or Harry Houdini?” he asked.

It’s the guru theory, McCafferty explained. “Involve your entire team. Give people a shot to contribute to the process. Celebrate and reward a team that wins a creative challenge.”

What kind of reward? Say thank you, he said, because those two words mean everything to maintaining and improving morale. “It’s very powerful because it makes people think like a creative rebel. Rebels rock.”

And on that note, McCafferty ended his session by blaring Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” from 1983. Rock on, operations rebels!

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