Creativity: Designer Andy Jacobs demands: “More Ernie than Bert”

Sir. Jacobs, with your book, you actually want to help people overcome mental blockages. But is not it primarily a prayer to dream?

Dreaming is actually a very important part of awakening creative forces. Anyone who interferes will find that many channels suddenly open up. Dreams are a source of inspiration for many creative people. And it has nothing to do with esotericism: if an entrepreneur successfully implements a vision, it is nothing more than the realization of his dream. Unfortunately, we are deprived of the dream in school.

They also advocate embracing the inner child because children are adventurous and passionate. Should society give children more influence?

It should at least involve children more. Children often have surprising mindsets because they do not carry so much ballast that we adults exclude many things from the start. A good example is Greta Thunberg and her performance at the UN climate summit.

Of course, children are not very rational yet, so they can ignore certain rules; on the other hand, their ideas are often unrealizable because they cannot assess the consequences. Nevertheless, I am much more in favor of adults accepting their childish side to a much greater degree. Basically, we do it already, because especially we men allow significantly more emotions compared to our fathers and grandfathers.

Designer duo: Andy Jacobs with his partner Alice Harwardt.  Both consult companies under the name “Alice & Jacobs” ...

Designer duo: Andy Jacobs with his partner Alice Harwardt. Both advise companies on issues of creativity and growth under the name “Alice & Jacobs”. | Photo: Matthew Wolf

The main character in your book is Ernie, the always cheerful partner of the grumpy Bert from “Sesame Street”. What can we learn from Ernie?

Bert is the eternal skeptic who dominates our lives, Ernie stands for the nonsense that we are driven out of in school. That is why a return to the first eight years of life is so important. In this phase, there will certainly be a lot that determines our later lives. Most blockages one has as an adult occurred at that time. Only when you are aware of this can you disassemble them.

So “dare more Ernie”. But do we also need Bert?

Necessarily! It was only late in my creative life that I accepted that Ernie’s childish perspective alone is unrealistic, because just going for fun does not achieve the goal. You also need Bert to take care of order and structure. You need rituals to make things happen.

I know many creative people who enthusiastically embark on a new project, but so often just get a brilliant idea; the implementation is too tedious for them because it requires discipline. I had the same thing with the book. The idea was tempting, but sat down and wrote every morning: It only worked with Bert’s help.

Does not this duality run throughout life? Cosmos here, chaos there, order here, fantasy there?

I deal a lot with ancient teachings such as. Kabbalah, the mysterious tradition of Judaism. These doctrines describe an ancient knowledge of the creative process. The universal law of polarity plays a crucial role here: no cause, no effect. Every force in the universe creates an opposing force. This counteracting principle is also a creative technique for all situations in life.

Bringing things together in new ways:

Bringing things together in new ways: the brain promotes creativity. | Photo: Andy Jacobs

Your book was probably created using the creative technique you invented that you describe. What are “braing grids” and what do they look like in practice? How do I use them?

They help structure the logical mind by providing a clear line of thought about how “braingrids” could be freely translated. This satisfies the brain’s pursuit of logic, and it can now engage in new impulses. Let’s say I’m looking for an idea for a crime story.

First, I consider what ingredients I need: killer, victim, crime scene, murder weapon, motive; which is in the first column. In the other columns I write down what comes to mind about the individual aspects, whereby there are no limits to the imagination; everything is allowed. Little by little, the sheet gets filled with all sorts of details that I can use as I please. The principle is very simple: I separate something into its individual parts, which I then reassemble.

In the book, your muse, Alice, says you have the gift of seeing things other people do not. It sounds like a superhero, but you write that anyone can do it.

I am convinced that all ideas are already there and even obvious, but we are too limited in our perception to recognize them. As a designer, I develop brands and symbols for companies. My ideas are often very obvious because they already existed, it’s just that no one really looked. Creativity arises only when it is possible to overcome inertia and the dictatorship of logic.

Can you illustrate it with an example?

I will give you an example that I like to use in my seminars. I draw a big X on a piece of paper and then ask who can make a pixie out of it with one stroke. The solution is not difficult: the line comes next to the X and thus forms the Roman number XI, ie eleven. The next task is much more difficult: How can you turn the XI into a six with just one stroke? It’s almost always women who finally find out: they turn the page so that XI stands upside down and puts an S in front: SIX.

What are the men blocking in their decisions?

The fixation on the Roman numeral. Your brain is not able to switch to a different number system and a different language at the same time. In women, the right and left hemispheres of the brain are more closely connected, making it easier for them to transfer between the intuitive, emotional, and logical, verbal hemispheres. The example illustrates how selectively our brain perceives the world.

We assess many things on the basis of a finished assumption and therefore no longer look proper. That’s why I’ve gotten into the habit of destroying things first to avoid getting blocked or distracted.

In addition, the brain often makes the wrong decisions. Why?

Because it complements its imperfect perception with things that are not there. Any police officer who has asked several people for a description of the same perpetrator will confirm this. It’s a simple psychological effect: the brain adds details to make perceptions more understandable. This phenomenon can be used in creativity.

Why? How do you approach it?

By first defining a norm, then breaking it down and finally asking yourself: What would happen if I replaced what seemed to be an essential element with something completely different. What makes a tree a tree? It has a stem and also branches, leaves and roots. This defines the norm.

But are there also deviations, for example trees without branches, without leaves? I investigate it and find out: No, it is not there. In the third step, I then imagine what a tree would look like without branches and leaves. For that is the goal of any creative process: the deviation from the norm, from mediocrity, from boredom.

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