How to be More Creative by leveraging your inner Taco Bell

Have you ever had a creative idea that fell on deaf ears? Have you ever had such conviction about an idea that you couldn’t possibly understand how someone else couldn’t be AS EXCITED ABOUT IT AS YOU ARE!? Do you know that people will be kicking themselves in two years for not listening to you?

If this sounds like you, act more like Taco Bell.

I recently finished a phenomenal read: Originals by Adam Grant. I had tons of takeaways, but for the purpose of this article, I’ve narrowed it down to three main ones:

  1. Be more creative
  2. Creative ideas need the right time and place to come to fruition
  3. Think more like Taco bell*

*this was not a direct takeaway, this is just me attempting to be more creative (see item 1. above)

A little history on where Taco Bell comes into play. Taco Bell and I have had a very precarious relationship. I’m a man that’s been trying to lose about 15 lbs since 2008 (15 lbs over the course of 8 years). I’m also a man that would secretly love to win any “Free Taco Bell for Life” type contest, and then blame my inability to lose 15 lbs on that reward. Those two ideologies do not mix well together.

However, beyond the fact that I enjoy their food, I have a tremendous amount of respect for how creative Taco Bell can be. I’m not just talking about their Snapchat game (although that is pretty phenomenal).

I’m talking about Taco Bell’s understanding that you don’t need to make major changes to have creative ideas.

I’ve spent 1000's of hours studying the philosophy, theory and analytics behind each new monthly Taco Bell creation since 2009*. You’ll notice a trend: each month, the items are not incredibly different, yet they feel very different, and that’s what keeps people coming back. Let’s compare some of the more memorable additions from the last few years:

  • Classic Hard Shell Taco — meat, cheese, lettuce, tortilla.
  • Doritos Locos Tacos — meat, cheese, lettuce, tortilla (+flavor). Sold 100 million in 10 weeks
That’s a lot of tacos!
  • Quesalupa — meat, cheese (+relocated to shell), lettuce, tortilla.

A reminder: The release of these items span the course of several years, yet there are only very minor differences between them. Taco Bell gets creative by making minor tweaks and moving some things around. Why don’t we follow their lead?

“Creativity does not have to be complicated. Just move a few things around.” - Me

You can make minor tweaks to your three components of creativity

I look at creativity in three components: idea, audience, conviction.

Idea: this is your creative thought. Have you thought of 30 subsequent ideas to ensure you’ve come up with the most creative one? Have you shared this idea to your peers to get feedback? More importantly, have you shared your ideas with those outside of your peer group? These are the ones that will give you the most honest, critical feedback.

Audience: these are the individuals you are trying to get to act on your idea. Are you talking to mobilizers that will latch on to new ideas? Are you talking to individuals that will champion your ideas and move them throughout an organization? Are you talking to someone who is “by the book” and hates change? People similar to this cat for example:

The audience that you share your creative ideas with is incredibly important. Just as important is your understanding that you can change your audience. Have you considered other individuals that would help move your ideas forward? Think about the last time you shared an idea with a colleague who moved on to another role: have you re-shared your idea with the new person taking over? Maybe they will see it from a new lens.

Conviction: you should be the expert in your creative idea. Have you fully examined your idea? What are all of the potential pitfalls of the idea? You should have already poked holes before anyone else has the opportunity to. If you’re not passionate about your idea, why should somebody else be? If you’re too passionate about an idea, have you considered that you may have just scared everyone away?

Let’s not forget: timing is everything. Understand that a creative idea can take weeks, months, years to come to fruition. If you are not convinced that you have the right idea, audience or the right conviction, leverage strategic procrastination to create new ideas. Adam’s quote below sums up this concept nicely:

“Begin a task early, but delay completing it so you have time for incubation and space for divergent thinking.”- Adam Grant

If we go back to my scientific study of Taco Bell since 2009**, they made slight tweaks to their product and saw major creative gains. Not happy with your idea? Think of more possibilities to increase creativity. Not happy with your audience? Share your idea with someone that can move it forward, or wait until a new audience exists. Not enough conviction? Pick apart your idea to understand why it is important to you. Too much conviction? WOAH calm down there, buddy!

Or just like Taco Bell, wait until the exact right time to release creativity. Think about the Beefy Crunch Movement. The day they re-release that delicious invention, the internet will explode!

Breaking News: Internet reacts to re-release of Beefy Crunch Burrito

Notes:

*- this is absolutely not true, I didn’t look at anything past general taste testing

**- again, there was no study

What do you think? How do you come up with creative ideas? I’d love to continue this conversation with your thoughts on creativity. Follow me on Twitter @ohsureschneider and continue the conversation below!