DRC – Directing Reliable Creativity

That’s not what it stands for

In the first post next week I want to share a great concept for evaluating ideas; to round out this week’s posts I thought I would share something that has had a profound impact on the way I approach creativity over the last few years. I’ve heard feedback from lots of people who say that this simple process has transformed the way they look for ideas.

DRC stands for Dreamer, Realist, Critic: it came from research by Robert Dilts, who was looking at the practices of companies that succeed. At Disney he found that there were three steps – three deliberate steps – taken to ideas and creativity.

First of all, people were asked to be Dreamers. When new ideas were called for, all options were on the table. There was no such thing as a bad idea, everything was encouraged. As many ideas as possible, and what’s more, keep spinning off those ideas: “Six dwarves? No, seven – wait! Eight! And in 3D!! With smell-o-vision!!!

After a period of deliberate idea seeking, people would be asked to view these ideas as Realists. They were not asked to remove ideas, but to think about how they could be made practical. If there were constraints known, this was the time to start looking at ideas with those constraints in mind. How does the idea match up with what we have to implement it? What will it take to make the idea a reality? “Eight dwarves will take longer to animate. Go with seven after all. And smell-o-vision is beyond us now.”

Finally, one has to engage as a Critic. This does mean criticising aspects of the idea that don’t work, but it really does mean critiquing the idea as a whole. What are the merits? What are the positives? It can’t just be about picking holes. “3D is for people who don’t have good ideas and can’t sell tickets any other way!

Why do it this way?

Engaging with each step in turn is essential: it allows ideas space to grow. Very often our natural idea generation processes go from Dreamer to Critic with the first idea. We think of something and then shut down Dreamer, bypass Realist and shake the Critic by the hand like a best friend. It is important and necessary to be a Critic, but only after ideas have been explored.

What is the end result of these three steps? Lots of ideas, that have been weighed up against the reality of what is needed, and which have been critiqued. Some will now be thought of as rubbish; others will show lots of promise, but will need work. Hopefully some will seem to be exactly what you’re looking for.

This process, this simple acronym, might seem obvious. Like, dur, what else would you do? But look around. How often do people you know engage with creative thinking and problem solving in this way? Isn’t it more common for people to say “I need ideas! Quick give me an idea -” and then either go with the first idea that is sent their way, or immediately start critiquing ideas as they are presented?

Instead of wasting time arguing about ideas as they come up, whether working alone or in a group, take time to think first of all as a Dreamer, then a Realist, then a Critic. DRC. Simple!

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

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