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Use the Marvel Method to Drive Creativity

Anyone who has seen me speak or has read my blog knows that there is a universal truth when it comes to creativity: we are all born creative.

Though many may want to tell themselves that they’re not a creative person, or that creativity is best left to the “Creative Departments,” the truth of the matter is that we all have creativity inside of us.

The problem is not lack of creativity. The problem is the lack of time to access our creative minds.

When you get into an argument with someone (we’ve all been there), what usually happens 5 minutes after you walk away from the argument? You think of the perfect one-liner response! That single idea that would have crushed your opponent.

Why does the perfect response come to us after the argument is over? Because after we leave the argument, we finally allow our brains time to think. It’s the same reason you get your best ideas in the shower or lying in bed before you fall asleep. It’s these moments where we shut down the day-to-day operational side of our brain, and actually allow our thoughts to wander in new creative directions.

With this in mind, it’s clear that modern businesses do not have a creativity problem. They have a thinking problem.

So, how can you combat this problem, and create a culture of innovation and creativity in your company?

Learn the Marvel Method.

Whether or not you consider yourself a comic book geek, chances are you are quite familiar with Marvel. The media machine behind some of the most successful movies of all time, Marvel has become a household name around the world. But before it dominated the theatres, Marvel was simply a successful comic book company.

And leading the creative comic book renaissance at Marvel was a young writer named Stan Lee.

Stan Lee was without a doubt incredibly gifted. He had a knack for storytelling and creative character development like no one had ever seen. But in his prime as a comic book writer for Marvel, he was outshining entire teams of comic book writers. It was like he had become one of his own superheroes. And his superpower? Having the creative genius and output of 10 or more normal comic book writers.

But as it came to light years later, Stan Lee had more than just creativity helping him build one of the most successful careers in comics. To sustain his unprecedented streak of hit after hit at the helm of popular comics such as The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Spider-Man, Hulk, and more, Lee developed a super tool: The Marvel Method.

What is the Marvel Method?

Before Stan Lee created the Marvel Method, comic book development followed a pretty standardized procedure, no matter what company or team was working on it. Traditionally, the writer (or writers) would first come up with the plot. From there, they would tediously map out each and every cell, describing exactly what would happen, and creating each piece of dialogue. This would all be written out and fine-tuned until there was a final script for the team to submit to the artist, who would then draw each frame of the comic based on the final script they were given.

It was a laborious process for the writing team, which meant that writers would almost exclusively work on a single comic. They didn’t have time to think about anything else!

When Stan Lee took over as the main writer at Marvel Comics, he knew that the biggest strengths he could bring to the table were his creative ideas for characters and plot line. He didn’t want to operate like most comic book writers and focus on a single character. He wanted to build an entire Marvel universe of characters. But to do this, he needed to find a way to maximize his creative output and allow time to actually think about his stories.

So, he devised the Marvel Method.

Instead of spending days and days working on an entire script for each comic, Lee devised a method that began with a single page outline for the plot. Perhaps Hulk got angry. Or maybe Spider-Man learned a lesson about responsibility. Whatever it was, it would be outlined and constricted to a single page.

From there, the artist responsible for that issue would take that plot and decide how to depict it on the page. Instead of being told exactly what to do with a line-by-line script, Lee empowered his artists to think creatively, and use their best judgment to map out his one-page plot into a series of comic book panels.

Once the artist had finished drawing the comic, Lee would look over the pages and insert dialogue to match the artist’s depictions. Since he was working off a finished product, the dialogue portion took a fraction of the time that it normally would have when writers would create dialogue blindly.

The result? He drastically reduced the time it took to complete the most labor-intensive task, freeing up significant blocks of time for thinking. And that thinking is what allowed Stan Lee to build the world’s most successful comic book company and create some of the most iconic characters and storylines in the history of fiction.

Putting the Marvel Method to Use In Your Business

How many employees in your business are acting like traditional comic book writers, and how many are acting like Stan Lee?

The more time your teams find to think, the more likely it is that they’ll be able to consistently generate creative ideas. And while modern business breeds a culture of busyness, the success of Lee’s Marvel Method shows that there are tools out there that can free up time to think.

Just because your company or even your entire industry does things a certain way doesn’t mean you need to follow suit. Look for procedures and processes within your business that could benefit from the Marvel Method. Rearrange teams, order of procedures, timelines, resource allocation–whatever you need to do to loosen up those blocks of time that’ll allow your teams to sit back and actually think.

Because as Stan Lee showed the world, when you find hacks to open up your creative thinking, you don’t just build a successful franchise. You build a successful universe.

And that’s one superpower we all could use.

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