Paysage Cubiste by Albert Gleizes

For more creative ideas play with your perspectives

Cubism famously attempts to depict a subject from a multitude of viewpoints at the same time. Pioneering artists like Picasso, Braque and Léger developed the style to represent their subjects in a greater depth and context.


In Cubist artwork, objects are analysed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form. Here we look at how that imaginative play with perspectives and focus can help stimulate creativity.



Role perspectives

It is interesting how our role within a group or in a situation determines our mindset and our approach to that situation. Think about how your language and behaviour change when you are talking to your parents or a senior figure in your community. Then contrast that with what you are like at a birthday party with your closest friends. Effectively, you take on a character for that specific role. These characters are facets of you, but they are different to each other. While in character, your mindset and perspective also naturally shift.


Two well-known creativity methods which use the mindsets of roles to great effect are the Disney Method and Six Thinking Hats.

The Disney Method

The Disney method was actually formulated by Robert Dilts in 1994, based on what Disney is reputed to have said: “There are three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler.”


The method encourages you to adopt three different mindsets in phases as you think about an opportunity or problem. It helps to move location or setting for each stage, say move chair or better still go onto a different room. This helps you to mentally switch roles and mindsets.

Walt Disney
Walt Disney


Is the first stage, you take on the role of the dreamers. Here you let your imagination run riot. You dream up wild and tantalising possibilities and concoct fanciful ways of achieving your goal. In this phase, there are no limitations and no judgements.


In the second phase, the realists takes over. The realists are the realisers. They turn the dreams best ideas into reality. They find the practical ways of making the dreamers dreams come true. They create the plan for the solution work. They talk practicalities like science, mechanics, timing and cost.


Finally – only after the thing has been imagined and a realistic plan devised – come the critics or spoilers. They evaluate the plan. They seek out its weaknesses, obstacles and risks, and they propose ways to overcome these.

Six Thinking Hats

Edward De Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats” also seeks to direct mindsets through perspectives. The hats are metaphors for different thinking directions that can be easily put on and taken off.


The Six Thinking Hats is a method for small groups of people and takes the form of a facilitated discussion. A facilitator decides which hat is being worn by the group during each part of the session.

The Six Thinking Hats (or directions) are:

White hat

is about establishing information and facts.

Yellow hat

is the optimistic view, it focuses on advantages and benefits.

Black hat

is the cautious view, it focuses on risks, disadvantages and realism.

Red hat

is the emotional response, it focuses on feelings, intuition and instinct.

Green hat

is the creative perspective, it seeks out novelty and the imaginative.

Blue hat

is the process control. This is the hat that oversees and manages the discussions

Conflicting perspectives

Group think tends to stifle creativity. If everyone follows the crowd or the well-trodden path, very little new is ever found. Sometimes a little bit of conflict is just what is needed to spice things up.

Devil’s Advocate is when someone deliberately takes an opposing view, questions assumptions and proposes counter arguments. This approach can be used in many stages of the design process, to test assumptions, probe problem definitions or evaluate solutions for example.


During an ideation phase, it can be used to help broaden people’s perspectives of a problem, and the types of solutions that are available. The Devil’s advocate is a voice of doubt. They should be saying “no, that is not the only/main way or reason” “Here’s something else to think about”. The Devil’s advocate should be a constructive challenge, particularly of assumptions, of narrow or obvious lines thought and of lack of knowledge.

Cubist talk illustration

The Joker is an alternative Devil’s Advocate. While the Joker’s role remains the same – to raise question and challenge – the Joker approach should be humorous and even encompass the ridiculous. The Jokers challenges could be wild, comical and unbelievable. In a group situation, the Joker character is often better received that an overt devil’s advocate, because the comical element helps avoid or minimise possible tension form the conflicting arguments.

Dialectic Inquiry is another technique which uses conflict and counter argument. It is similar to the Devil’s Advocate. This method relies on argument and counter argument to explore a topic. It stems back to Plato and others who sought the truth of things by exploring opposite positions: thesis and antithesis.


In this method, form two or more small groups of people. Within each group, choose people who are similar and likeminded.  Try to ensure the groups are as different to each other as possible. So, you could form one group of just engineers, and another group with only artists, for example. Each group meets to agree its position on a selected topic or issue. Thy should identify their assumptions and build a case for and against their position. The groups present their positions to each and debate them, strongly defending their own position.


Carefully facilitated, such debates help to broaden people’s perspectives and surface any hidden assumptions which could hinder creative exploration of possible solutions.

Fresh perspectives

Sometimes a problem just needs a fresh eye to get it unstuck. This is such an obvious approach that it is all too often forgotten. A fresh perspective helps overcome fixation, problem blindness and creative anxiety.

Cubist style portrait

Mirror view

In art and design, something as simple as holding up a mirror to your work turns it into something unfamiliar and fresh. It shifts your perspective just enough to see areas for improvement.

Rested view

Taking a break is often a good idea. You can then return to the question when rested and refreshed. Incubation may have been exactly what the cognitive process needed. Or you could try an excursion, to rest and stimulate the mind. We will cover excursions shortly.

Stranger’s view

Ask someone who has not been involved in your quest to take a fresh look at it. Keep your explanation to a minimum and try to ask them to consider just one facet that is proving difficult. Do their ideas or opinions spark anything new?

Shifting focus

As well as exploring perspectives, changing your focus can help shed new light a problem. Excursions and laddering techniques provide structured ways to move your mind around the problem.


Excursions are an ideal way to shift focus and stimulate fresh, creative and surprising ideas. They work by first moving your mind away from the problem in a relaxing and enjoyable way, then providing unexpected sources of new inspiration when you return to it.


There are several types of journey which can be effective in being able to fulfil both the distraction and inspiration aspects. For example, you could take a trip, enjoy a story, or play a game.

Take a trip:

Whether a quiet walk in the countryside or a visit to a busy street market, a short external trip is a favourite of many people. Why not explore the local museum and art gallery, or drop into your favourite café? Try to combine physical activity and a pleasant environment.

Enjoy a story:

Watch or listen to an engaging story. It could be an extended topical news story or the group recalling their best holiday experiences. It could be a children’s fairy tale of sci-fi fantasy.

Play a game:

A playful intermission can also act as an invigorating exercise. Stimulating group games could be anything from quizzes to a scavenger hunt or a football match. Whatever format you use, keep it fun, easy and varied.

At the end of the excursion, reflect on the trip you’ve just taken, and try to relate it back to the original problem. Discuss what similarities or contrasts can you draw. What ideas or thoughts did the trip stimulate? What can you borrow or steal from your excursion?


Laddering techniques move you up and down layers of the problem. They are also very effective ways to change perspective or shift your focus.

Fantasy ladder illustration

The Concept Fan, developed by Edward De Bono, nicely illustrates the simplicity and effectiveness of laddering.


Step 1:

Start by drawing circle in the centre of a large sheet or white board. Write your problem in the circle. Brainstorm ideas to solve this problem. Write your ideas as rays radiating out to the right of the problem circle.


Step 2:

Now, try to redefine your problem in a more general way. Step up. What is the broader view of this problem? What problem group is this problem part of? To the left of your problem, draw another circle and write down your wider definition.


Step 3:

From this broader definition, step down. What other problems, ideas or potential topics of exploration could address this problem. Place these in circles above and below your original problem, with lines radiating back to the wider definition. For each of these new areas, what potential solutions can you think of?


You can continue laddering up – and laddering down – to draw out more and more varied ideas.

Reversals and opposites

Why not approach things from back to front, from inside out, or from the opposite side? Reversal is a broad technique which encourages you to examine a problem from its different facets or sides.

Invert the problem

What is the reverse or opposite of what you are trying to achieve? How could you achieve that? How could you make customer services worse, or make customers buy less, or make a train go slower?

See the good in the bad

Make a feature out of adversity. Turn a negative into a positive, change weakness into strength. This is about moving your understanding of negatives to see the possibilities in them.

Do what everyone else is not

Go against the flow or the grain, go small when others go big, go quiet when other are loud.

Switch your line of sight

Change your position in relation to the problem, walk around it, change your view or perspective by 180 degrees. Turn it upside-down. Examine it from underneath and above.

Transpose elements

Move the pieces of your problem around; change the position of words in your definition or physical components of your issue. Shift roles and responsibilities.

Polarise the situation

Emphasise or create opposing forces within your problem. Seek out the extremes.


Playing with perspective is a great way to stimulate more creative ideas. We encourage you to look at problems from different viewpoints and characters, shift your focus or change the scale to see thing in a completely different light.