You Want Your Team to Think More Creatively? Have Them Watch One of These Films

You've probably been in this situation. You need to get a group of people, your team or a group of customers, to think creatively. Perhaps you're going to brainstorm solutions to a problem or do a co-creation session. Everyone gathers in a meeting room, still preoccupied with the last meeting they came out of or a recent email that needs a rush answer or stressed by the effort of getting there on time.

You need to get this group out of their current funk in to a playful, creative, open-minded mode. How do you do that quickly and with success?

Show them a film.

Films that are beautiful to watch, upbeat and related to your topic in a loose, intuitive manner, can change the collective mood from humdrum to creative in a matter of seconds.

After doing workshops with hundreds of people, I've learned that people are often anxious and ambivalent when they walk into a meeting where they don't quite know what will happen. They need a symbolic entry point to the creative space. A good little film acts as the window to such a magical place.

So next time you're going to do something creative, here is what I suggest--

Find a film. Something that distantly relates to your topic (see below some great suggestions). 2-3 minutes is ideal. Watch it together. Then all you need to do is bridge the film to your topic of conversation. Often this happens naturally--there's usually one person in the team that will say something like, this made me think this way about our project. You continue from there.

Here are my favorite films, Rotten Tomatoes-style, you can use for starters--

1. Powers of Ten

My favorite film is Charles and Ray Eames' Powers of Ten. It is a beautiful example of how you can see the same things differently depending on your vantage point and scale. If half of the room has seen it, the other half usually hasn't. And it is one of those films you can watch 10 times without getting sick of it. It is a great way to help people see something with a bird's eye, holistically, or come really close and see it under the microscope.

2. Cook This Page

Ikea's Cook this Page has captured our imagination since it came out. It is a great tool to show people how you can take something as banal as a recipe and totally reinvent it. It wows people and gets them to think playfully. As a visual thinker I also love the visualization of it all.

3. Chef's Table Episode on Francis Mallmann

These days we start Design the Work You Love sessions with Francis Mallmann from Netflix Chef's Table. Francis Mallmann is a renowned Argentinian chef who left the comfort of his famous restaurants to cook in the wild in Patagonia. He calls himself a "gypsy chef". It is a great example of someone who loves his work and sets the tone for exploring what it takes to find the right ingredients for our own work.

4. Kinematic Dress

When we need to inspire people (users, designers or anyone really) about the power of new materials and processes, we pull out the Kinematics Dress, a 3D-printed gown in motion. The suspense of what's going to happen and the transformation of what looks like powdered flour into a flowing dress is magical. Try it and you will see how ordinary people can come up with extraordinary ideas after viewing the film.

5. Ira Glass

Ira Glass of This American Life on story telling. Watch this when you're frustrated with the quality of what you're doing. Glass talks on video about the gap between your "killer" taste and what you actually do, a gap that can exist often for years. His lesson: do a lot of work to narrow the gap. Inspiring for anyone who is venturing on a new idea, like me and the team at Sound Made Public, as we start our Design the Life You Love podcast.

You can then watch play designer David Shiyang Liu's beautiful version of the interview set to typography.

6. The Happy Film

Stefan Sagmeister's long awaited The Happy Film is now available online. A beautiful and deeply personal pursuit of happiness by the maestro of graphic design. Steven Heller, prolific author and design critic, calls it a "atomic bomb of a film". Perfect to watch alone or as an after hours movie at the office, and to show excerpts for team meetings.

7. Abstract: The Art of Design

When you want to be in the company of creative giants, watch Netflix series Abstract: The Art of Design. Illustrator Christoph Niemann is a favorite.

7.5. One of These Three Short (and Funny) Films

These are funny or beautiful (or both) films that are great for the after lunch slump, to get the energy back up:

- This from Bloomberg on the Good Design Issue gets good laughs.

- Fashion films can turn out to be little art pieces. Here is one from OMA for Prada.

- Volvo ad, ABC of Death, by Dorian & Daniel is one of our favorite pieces for laughs. It is also a great primer for our creative tool, wrong thinking.

I always believe that the mood of creative thinking, at least as you enter it, is playful. It needs to be because when you're playing you're not afraid of making mistakes. What better way to set a playful mood than a film.

What are your favorite films that inspire you? I would love to hear from you and watch them.

Design the life and work you love with the aid of some great films!

Thank you Rona Binay, Karen Vellensky, Selin Sonmez, Chris Rawlinson, Leah Caplan and Seda Evis for your favorite films!