Blitz marketing, lateral thinking and a revolutionary seed-tray

[Image courtesy of Matthew Wynn at Flickr Creative Commons]

In the spirit of New Year, New You (a jaded old cliché, but one that works unfailingly every year – at least for me) I decided to sign up for some courses in early January on Udemy.

One of them was tantalisingly entitled Become a SuperLearner 2: Learn Speed Reading & Boost Memory-learning.

Isn’t that just irresistible?

Not only the promise of reading faster and remembering more, but the reassuring ‘2’, which suggests it’s better than version 1. I signed up immediately, encouraged by the $10 promotional price. It was a no-brainer (so to speak). 

So far, it’s proving very interesting indeed.

I’ve learned how we learn, why we forget, and how we can improve our retention. Plus the importance of creativity, imagination and visual imagery. And I’ve discovered a whole galaxy of memory champs like Joshua Foer (you must watch that TED talk) and Nelson Dellis (thanks to whom I can now name the 10 highest peaks in the world). 

But it’s not all about memorising decks of cards and other party tricks. There’s a serious purpose to all of this, which is to tap into the incredible power of our brain, and use it to the full. Or if not that, at least a little more than we currently do (not 10%, by the way – that myth’s been busted). 

Mind the gap

The SuperLearner course gets you to do all sorts of weird things to expand your mind, so you can step outside the limitations you imagine your brain has. 

Suddenly, I found myself remembering 20 random words, or random images.

Or taking a household object and listing as many uses – practical or zany – as I could think of. I chose a framed print in my living room.

Apparently kids come up on average with 20 uses for any given object. Adults are lucky to think of half that number – unless they ‘unlearn’ what they know and open their minds up to unexpected possibilities.

My list came in at 16, which means I’m more child than adult, I suppose. Or more creative. One of the uses was as a seed tray, as the frame is deep enough to fill it with earth, and germinate flowers. I was particularly proud of that one.

The great thing about all of this mind-bending is that it has a knock-on effect on everything else. Freed from the bounds of conventional thinking, you suddenly start making connections.

And those connections start happening faster.

It helps if you can combine this left-of-field approach with the one-minute rule that I talked about last year. If you can do it right now, in less than one minute, do it. And if you can’t, start anyway and see what happens.

No time like the present

What’s the one thing you’re putting off today? The thing you just know you won’t have accomplished – though you should have – by the end of the day?

Chances are you think you need just a little more: time, reflection, information, feedback, evaluation, research and so on.

You don’t. Because when you’re under pressure, you can produce great things fast. Or even good things fast, which most of the time is perfectly adequate.

Just this week, somebody I often work with asked me if I could contribute to a marketing proposal he was putting together. It would involve branding, design, strategy and content marketing. The thing is, the proposal had to be submitted in a couple of hours, and I was already under pressure on another job. 

My contribution didn’t have to be long, but it did have to add value. It couldn’t just be waffle. 

I grabbed a pen and paper, and went into seed-tray mode.

Fifteen minutes later, I had a top-level marketing outline, with 10 strategies, an activity calendar, and over 20 articles spread across three categories.

When I finished, I looked at this list in wonder and amazement. How had I done that? 

The answer is simple: when you have to, you can. Strip away all external distractions and let your mind run free.

Just like I did with the framed print. It was a fire-guard, a drinks tray, a draught excluder and a sunshade. A fan, a blackout panel, a seat and an umbrella. Not to mention a seed tray.

It may sound like a frivolous exercise, but all this lateral thinking helps you see things differently and come up with truly novel ideas.

Which in marketing terms is pure gold dust.

And what about my super-learning skills? Well I can’t memorise a pack of cards yet, or read read War and Peace in an afternoon. But I can come up with marketing plan (or an outline for one) in under 15 minutes. 

So that was $10 well spent.