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Unlock Your Creative Ideas With This Magic Question

by: Bill Stainton

It happens virtually every morning.
You wake up, and there in the paper, or online, or on TV, is a success story. (Yes, they're there. Sometimes you have to wade through the garbage.) Some entrepreneur, some company, some industry has come up with a game-changer. It might be Elon Musk, or the folks at Apple, or some person you've never heard of from some small town you've never heard of. But they've done it. They've come up with something brilliant - a breakthrough.

And you think, "Good for them," but somewhere, deep down inside, a little part of you dies. Because, once again, it wasn't you.

But what if you could turn that around? What if you could find a way to turn their success into your success? What if there was a way that you could wake up virtually every morning to a ready-made "breakthrough workshop?"

You can. And it comes down to one, simple five-word question:

"How is this like that?"
I call it the Magic Question.

The root of practically all creativity is in taking two or more things that don't normally go together and finding a surprising connection. When you ask the Magic Question, you're forcing your brain to do just that.

I recently conducted a creativity workshop for a brilliant group of credit union marketers. For one activity, I asked a portion of this group to come up with as many answers as they could to this question: "How is working with multiple generations [one of the challenges they had identified earlier] like... an egg?"

Why "an egg"? No reason. I just picked it at random. But it forced them to look at the challenge through a different lens. Twenty minutes later, they had not only come up with answers, they had come up with an entire marketing campaign-complete with copy, tag lines, visuals, and much more. In just twenty minutes!

From an egg.
Now, what if, instead of an egg, you were to use someone else's breakthrough idea as your starting point? What if, tomorrow morning, you were to do these things, in this order:

Wake up, search for, and find the success story.
Gather your team.
Review the success story.
Ask this version of the Magic Question: "How is what this person/company/industry did like us? How can we take what they did and apply it to our business?"
Spend at least 20 minutes coming up with answers.
Nothing is out of bounds; no answer is too outlandish. That's because any idea, no matter how silly, could be what I call "the idea that leads to the idea."

The only unacceptable answer to "How is this like that?" is, "It's not." There are always connections, when you choose to look for them.

And one of those connections might just be your next million-dollar idea.

About The Author

For 15 years, Executive Producer Bill Stainton led his team to more than 100 Emmy Awards and 10 straight years of #1 ratings. Today Bill helps leaders achieve those kinds of results--in THEIR world and with THEIR teams. His website is

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