How to put the Prime Minister on the space station

By March 1, 2016September 7th, 2018Business Planning & Strategy, Creative Business


I was very pleased last week to visit Albury Wodonga and deliver a workshop on business skills for creatives. This is the latest in a series of events for artists and creative business owners in regional locations, and they are always enjoyable, illuminating events.

One of my standard pieces of schtick in these workshops is an activity based around “impossible goals”. I ask the participants to quickly come up with solutions to an ‘impossible’ problem, such as steal the Mona Lisa by next week, or bring the Olympics to your home town by Christmas. (It’s an exercise recommended by Amanatha Imber in her book, The Creativity Formula, which is well worth a read).

It was originally designed as an exercise to help boost workplace creativity, and it certainly does inspire some bold and brazen ideas. But I use it as a method of demonstrating the difference between goals and strategies; goals being what you’re trying to achieve and strategies being the ways you seek to meet that goal.

One of my go-to impossible goals is ‘get the prime minister on the international space station by next month’. This has never failed to elicit widespread support and enthusiasm from the attendees.

Having now used that example multiple times, I’m getting used to the responses it prompts. Many groups suggest a partnership with Richard Branson. Others suggest some sort of fund filled with donations from eager voters to get him there. An alarming number of people suggest kidnapping him and stowing him aboard a NASA flight.

In Albury Wodonga, I gave this impossible goal to a group of five recently graduated students of the Flying Fruit Fly Circus. You might expect these energetic, young minds to come up with a new and exciting suggestion.

And of course they did – one which was simple, original and ingenious.

Their idea: get him to want to go the international space station.

Their reasoning: He’s a rich man, he has the money to get into space already. But he’s also a proud man, who could probably be sold on the idea of being the first Prime Minister in space.

Their strategy: Convince him of the merits of the idea and he’ll make it happen himself.

This was an exercise about strategizing, but the circus performers’ example actually reveals something about another skill which is vital to building a creative business: generating sales.

The ability to get a consumer to want something is very powerful indeed. It makes getting the sale that much easier because the consumer doesn’t need to be convinced. When we want something to a dominant extent, other factors such as price and inconvenience drop away.

So thanks to my newfound circus friends, who it appears are going to excel at both strategizing and selling their services. And if Malcolm Turnbull makes a big, interstellar announcement some time soon… remember, you heard it here first.

If you’ve got issues in your business you don’t seem to be able to get on top of, why not get in touch? Not only do we provide a full suite of bookkeeping and tax services here at Generate, but we’re also able to help with business coaching, strategy workshops, business plans and much more. You name the problem and I’m sure we can help.