Need to Improve Your Innovation? Get Basil Fawlty to Teach You


Basil Fawtly teaches Innovation

I bet you think that someone like this guy opposite couldn’t possibly bring a h’penny of value to your creative world?

Well if you do, you’d be wrong!

John Cleese is famous for being one of  Monty Python’s Flying Circus. While he looks a bit dated and crazy in this picture (to be fair it was taken in 1975) he is actually playing character Basil Fawlty in the hilarious Fawlty Towers. He is an all round super clever bloke and definitely someone you should check out for creative inspiration.

If you’re not convinced check out John in this video.

Video of John Cleese talking about being creative

(Excuse me if you are British or of a certain age. You’re unlikely to be shocked by this revelation).

Innovation Challenges Any Convention

53d29c0da78b7_-_radio-hair-salon-london-male-stylists[1] What I have tried to do in my initial statement is to challenge the perception of the sort of person who is considered to be creative in the 21st century. These days a creatives aim to part of the “hipster tribe” who swan around Shoreditch; downtown New York or Silicon Valley drinking specialist coffee. The represent the cool end of innovation.  By pointing out that creative people are not always cut from this cloth, I’m trying to make you think in a different way.
I call this Smash Thinking. Part of my blog is to try an challenge readers with these sorts of thoughts.

Innovation is where an idea smashes into a set of contradictory thoughts and comes up with a solution that has not been considered before that is actually useful.

What’s more I think anyone can do it.

But what do I mean about contradictory thoughts? I’d like to explain the different types of thinking you are going to set on a collision course to become an innovative thinker

The 2 thoughts are broadly labelled as convergent thoughts and divergent thoughts.

Convergent Thinking

A converging thought is one that is based on what is already known. It is the champion of the status-quo and is the safe thinking.

Think what your aging parent might advise your teenage self. Alternatively consider arrogant assumptions of the Captain of the Titanic as he sailed his “indestructible” ship across the Atlantic.

Its roots are based in the individual feeling safe in what has always been.

Convergent Thinking makes the assumption that the current state will always be like this and no iceberg on this planet could possibly rock the boat.

Wikipedia defines: Convergent thinking is a term coined by Joy Paul Guilford as the opposite of divergent thinking. It generally means the ability to give the “correct” answer to standard questions that do not require significant creativity, for instance in most tasks in school and on standardized multiple-choice tests for intelligence.

The Nudged Solution

People who build innovations based purely on convergent thinking evolve a solution by nudging it forward. They correct what has gone wrong before.

I find the the focus group mentality where consumers are asked to come up with innovation is trapped in convergent thinking.

As Henry Ford dubiously said “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse please”.

My experience in interviewing customers for video game ideas is that they tend to describe the last game that they played and dress it up with something new.

While this nudging is a valid form of creation, it is unlikely to inspire the revelation that will catapult the idea to another level.

Divergent thinking

Divergent thinking is the opposite of the convergent. It champions the absurd and tries to come at the idea in a way that no one has thought about. It challenges all the assumptions that the convergent thinking has defined.

Wikipedia suggests that: Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions.

The Jumped Solution

blockbusterPeople who truly innovate make a jump of thinking that catapult it to another level. If it’s good it can lay waste to industries that have existed before. Consider how Netflix has altered how DVD rentals worked. Can you remember you remember queuing at Blockbuster? If you would have asked an exec at Blockbuster before Netflix they would never have seen it coming…

Jim Keyes CEO of Blockbuster- “Neither RedBox nor Netflix are even on the radar screen in terms of competition,” he said. “It’s more Wal-Mart and Apple.”  

I find that most stand-up comedians are exponents of divergent thinking.

Q: What’s Brown and Sticky?
A: A stick

A funny joke sets up a convergent thought and then up ends it with a challenge that turns the whole thing on it head.

According to my mate* John Cleese “When you are being creative, nothing is wrong”.

When comedians make these sorts of comments we think this is funny. But if we can take this sort of thinking and apply it to the every day then it is innovative.

You could say then that another definition of innovation then is the art of applying foolishness to thinking.

This photograph is the copyright of the FILM COMPANY and has been licensed from Alamy

*I don’t really know John Cleese but I would like too


I hope you find this article interesting, check out my ebook,  Innovation Muscle. Its a short sharp read as to how you and your team can innovate fresh powerful ideas. Using these processes you will be able to create ideas that punch above their weight.

Innovation Muscle640

Anyone purchasing the book will receive not one, but TWO FREE mini e-books that are supplied directly as PDF files to your inbox. These can be distributed to you team when starting a new project or used simply to sanity check your existing processes.


2 thoughts on “Need to Improve Your Innovation? Get Basil Fawlty to Teach You

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