Oblique Strategies

Oblique Strategies, subtitled Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas, was a card-based method for promoting creativity jointly created by Brian Eno (British musician, composer and record producer) and Peter Schmidt (British artist and painter). It was first published in 1975 and it originally consisted of a deck of 113 cards, each with a creative suggestion on it. Eno has used them while working with music artists such as David Bowie and Coldplay.

A few of the suggestions are specific to music composition but most are generic ideas and advice which can be used to spur creative thinking, breakthrough a creative block, deadlock or a dilemma. Examples include:

  • Use an old idea.
  • Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify
  • Only one element of each kind.
  • What would your closest friend do?
  • What to increase? What to reduce?
  • Are there sections? Consider transitions.
  • Try faking it!
  • Repetition is a form of change
  • Honour thy error as a hidden intention.
  • Ask your body.
  • Work at a different speed.

Inspiration can be making a connection you had not made before or looking at something in a new way. And that is why these oblique strategies can be so useful. As Steve Jobs (Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Apple) put it, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things”.

The 2001 edition introduction includes the following observation, “These cards evolved from separate observations of the principles underlying what we were doing. Sometimes they were recognised in retrospect (intellect catching up with intuition), sometimes they were identified as they were happening, sometimes they were formulated. They can be used as a pack, or by drawing a single card from the shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation. In this case the card is trusted even if its appropriateness is quite unclear”.

Now, you don’t have to have a physical deck of cards anymore. Created in 2022 by Maksim Morozov there is an online version with 213 different suggestions. This is very useful in itself, but you might want to craft a few suggestions that are specific to the industry you work in.

If you are struggling with a lack of creativity then hypnotherapy can help. Contact me for more details.

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