I recently saw a list of super tips on the Account Planning Facebook page to get your brain ticking away, thinking like a planner. The list comes from Mark Pollard, who is an Australian planner working in New York:
Career secret - if you think for a living, here are ten easy ways to practice thinking things:
1. In your mind, re-caption the first 10 photos you see in your Instagram feed. Give the photos new meaning.
2. In one day, eavesdrop on 5 conversations and write down 1 interesting exchange from each.
3. Watch your favourite Ted talk 3 times and break it down into sections on index cards - understand the 3-act arc and techniques at play.
4. Take two disconnected things - your favourite dessert and novel - and force yourself to write down 5 things they have in common.
5. Ask a barista to tell you something about the world that you probably don't know.
6. Watch stand-up comedy or read a poem and write down 3 insights.
7. Take a recent presentation and challenge yourself to only use pictures to make the same points - find the pictures.
8. Open your favourite novel, write out the first page then rewrite it in your own words.
9. Interview a stranger.
10. Read relevant research then go for a two-hour walk without writing equipment and devices and think about the 3 main ideas you found in the research.
These have obvious application as workshop warm-ups or interview tasks, but I think they can also be applied to cracking a brief or writing a strategy or solving a business problem. I have the feeling that good planners do a lot of this kind of thinking intuitively, without the formal 'oh, let's look in the toolbox and see which trick I can use ...'
There was some criticism on the Facebook page along the lines that this is 'fluffy' and not impressive in the boardroom, but surely the point is that you don't need to bore people with your working as to how you came to your brilliant idea. And you can back it up with all the statistics and technical tricks that you think people need to buy into it.