Creativity in the Year of the Monkey

Creativity in the Year of the Monkey

In a few days, it will be time again to say: Kung Hai Fat Choy and welcome in the Year of the Monkey (or the Red Fire Monkey to be more precise).

Of all the animals of the Chinese Zodiac signs, the monkey is the one most closely related to us humans. What creative inspirations can we get from the monkey to help us thrive in the coming twelve months?

Expect peculiarities and surprises

Monkeys are peculiar animals. They are cute, curious and funny one moment, but can turn into mischievous pranksters the next. In some place they are even pests, harassing humans and stealing their food and valuables. Monkeys are always good for a surprise, so be prepared to the unexpected.

Looking around the business world, we see high levels of uncertainty related to political, economical and financial risks across many markets around the world. In the Year of the Monkey, better be prepared for surprises! But note that these can be both negative and positive, both a threat and an opportunity.

Inspiration: What market risks is your business exposed to? How can you reduce or hedge against them? How may you diversify your business and its parameters (markets, client groups, currencies, among others) to reduce the overall impact of surprises? Or if you’re up to playing, how may you take the side of the monkey to make money with a surprising prank? How may you turn a negative surprise or threat into an opportunity for your business?

Counter surprises with creativity

People born in a monkey year are said to be clever, optimistic, romantic, sociable, quick-witted, confident, agile, motivating, playful, curious, and gregarious. Interestingly, many of these positive personality characteristics coincide with traits commonly found in creative geniuses. As such, the year ahead promises to be a good one for creativity. And it better be — as creative responses to surprises are one way to thrive in the Year of the Monkey.

Inspiration: How can you adapt the positive traits of the monkey to make yourself or your business more creative, likeable and jolly?

Don’t confuse apes with monkeys

Many of us use the words interchangeably, and incorrectly. Consider the differences: Monkeys live mostly in trees and thus have tails to better balance their weight while flying through the treetops. In contrast, apes live on the ground and have larger brains, allowing them to do more advanced problem-solving and use more tools. So don’t call an ape a “stupid monkey”.

Inspiration: What do would you want to investigate more deeply to deepen and discriminate your knowledge? What aspects of your business are lumped together though they should be measured with different yardsticks?

Be of service

The relationship between humans and monkeys can be troubled. As we’ve already learned, monkeys can turn into a pest for humans, but the reverse holds true, too. Imagine being a monkey for a moment: Would you want humans to shoot you alone into space ? Or use you as guinea pig for drug experiments? Or, in some cultures, even eat your brain?

Fortunately, monkeys and humans can also peacefully coexist and even depend on each other. For example, humans not only keep monkeys as pets, but also use trained monkeys as service animals to assist disabled humans with tasks like feeding, fetching things, manipulating objects, and personal care.

Inspiration: How may you make your customers depend more on you by providing them more personalized services? Or by treating them as your beloved pet?

Pay your just dues

In the year of the monkey, would you like to work with —or be supported by— a troop of monkeys? Most probably not. Then consider the advise to the advertisement guru David Ogilvy: “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.”

In the year of the monkey, feed peanuts to the monkeys in the zoo, and ensure that you adequately pay your employees and suppliers.

Inspiration: Who are your top-performing talents who deserve raises or bonuses for their excellent contributions? Who are your top-quality suppliers who deserve not to be squeezed for discounts?

Year of the Monkey 2016

Visit the world of the monkey

Ideas are key to creatively respond to surprises and challenges that we can expect in the monkey year. One way to engage in creative play is to look into other worlds. How does this creativity technique work?

  1. First, specify your business challenge for which you want to create ideas: e.g., “How to close more sales pitches?”
  2. Chose a world to visit in your memory or imagination, such as the world of movies, or other industries, or the animal kingdom. Today, let’s go with the latter, and here pick the monkey.
  3. Next, let’s build some associations by asking: What do monkeys do? Well, they fly through the trees from branch to branch; they peel and eat bananas; they play with each other; and so on.
  4. Use these associative sentences related to the other world to come up with ideas for your challenge: “Set-up a sales competition between our different branches, and let the trophy for the best weekly performance fly from branch to branch;” or “Play a game with a client during a sales pitch to make it more fun and explain the benefits of our product in a playful way.” Or: “Peel a banana in front of a client, and say: I’m peeling back the details of our package to help you see how much value we give you for the reasonable amount that you pay.”
  5. Finally, within your pool of ideas, discover those that intrigue you, and turn them into meaningful concepts by evolving, combining or twisting ideas. For example, “Play a sales game with your client to teach them the benefits of your product, and give them a small prize for each correct answer in a final quiz. Then close the sale.”

Other Worlds is one of nearly four dozens creative power tools in the X-IDEA Toolbox that is part of our awards-winning, systematic innovation process method X-IDEA. Contact us if you want to learn more about X-IDEA, or need more ideas for success and survival in the creative, mischievous monkey year. All the best in the year ahead for you and your business, and let’s enjoy the flight!

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was originally published in parallel on the Thinkergy Blog ( and in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 4 February 2016.