Posts Tagged creativity

3 Lessons on Innovation from The Martian

3 Lessons in Innovation from The Martian

Everyone is talking about the latest sci-fi thriller, The Martian, which stars Matt Damon (Interstellar, The Departed), is directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down) and is adapted from Andy Weir’s novel about Mark Watney, a marooned astronaut who uses all his wit and ingenuity to survive on the inhospitable Mars.

The sci-fi movie is being heralded for being more science than fiction, having consulted extensively with NASA and having featured scientifically accurate technology so real and feasible that movie-goers thought the movie was based on a true story.

I was blown away at how beautifully the movie was done and relieved that it lacked the cliche scenes typical in space blockbusters.  You won’t find the super smart astronaut doing ironically non-super smart astronaut things. You won’t find an astronaut glancing through his rocket ship window at the little blue dot called earth with somber commentary on human insignificance. And you won’t find any overly science-y jargoned explanation between scientists that only confuses the audience more.

What you will find is a pure survivalist tale that illustrates the power of human perseverance and collaboration to do brilliantly innovative things. And it will sure make you feel proud to be a human Earthling.

So here are 3 lessons on innovating for you Earthlings out there from The Martian. (Caution: Some spoiler alerts- so go watch the movie before you read this!)

To innovate, reframe and solve the right problems, one at a time

At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it…Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work… You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.

This was probably one of the best quotes from The Martian. It leaves you feeling that nothing is really impossible or hopeless. Although faced with terrifying circumstances, aka being stranded hundreds of millions of miles away from any other living human, Watney reframed his situation and focused on solving the problems at hand, one by one. And by doing so, he kept his sanity and ultimately his life.

For Watney, the big question was “How do I survive on Mars?” – which sounds like a completely impossible scenario.  But Watney began breaking down the question into smaller, more solvable problems that he began to work out one after the other. “How do I grow enough food?” “How do I make water?” “How do I communicate with Earth?”

Of course our own big questions we ask about our own business and products may not be as life threatening (though we think it may be) – but they are often questions that feel too abstract or too complex to solve. By reframing your problem into tangible challenges – you can and will be able solve for the seemingly impossible.

To innovate, incorporate diverse perspectives and be open to collaboration

A beautiful moment in The Martian took place when the directors of CNSA (China National Space Administration) discussed whether to postpone their own mission by offering their Taeyang Shen space probe rocket to the US to help them retrieve Watney or to simply remain silent, free from repercussions since the rocket was classified information that no one knew about. Ultimately, in the name of science, they decided to reach out and help their fellow scientists.

How often do we look outside our own industry? (If you’re in financial services or healthcare, what can you learn from CPG or the tech sector?)
How often do we look outside at what other cultures are doing? (What can US companies learn from the success of Chinese products and companies?)

Often we can be narrow minded and blinded by our own expertise and knowledge in a field. However it’s diversity and collaboration that fuels innovation, which is one of the reasons why we take our insight and innovation clients on ‘safaris’ to gain inspiration from lateral industries and cultures, to open up their mind in a way that their office desk can not. It is through this exposure of diverse thoughts and perspectives that we can achieve great things.

To innovate, welcome humor

I admit it’s fatally dangerous, but I’d get to fly around like Iron Man.

This great line by Watney during one of the most suspenseful, and even ludicrous, scenes in the movie had me smiling from ear to ear, even though I was also clenching my fists in anxiety. The Martian is such an intense thriller, but it smartly keeps lighthearted with refreshing quips by Watney – which brings me to the power of humor.

Studies have shown that humor can help in ideation and creativity, allowing for more eureka! moments. Even brainstorming the ridiculously exaggerated of the imagination could help you to break out of your linear way of thinking by allowing the mind to associate new ideas/relationships more freely- and ultimately lead to more plausible solutions you wouldn’t have thought of before – and if you’re Watney- save your life.

The Martian was an uplifting story and a remarkable demonstration of human ingenuity, offering great lessons even to those who aren’t stranded in space. To all the innovators out there on Earth- take note.

Mart Watney Innovating GIF

Image Credit: IndieWire

Ballet’s Revitalization


I’ve always been a dancer at heart. As a young dancer, watching a live ballet performance or attending ballet classes were the only ways that I could connect with the world.

When YouTube popped into the scene, the world of ballet became more accessible, and now anyone could experience and engage with the world of ballet from afar, without ever having to step into the theater. Aspiring dancers now have access to footage from real professional ballet classes, foreign documentaries on the lives of ballerinas around the world, and even clips from famous performances.

But ballet is an art, and there’s a great concern in the ballet world that younger generations with short attention spans and a desire for fast paced action-filled adventures are losing interest in the world of classical dance.  And in a lot of ways this is true. Rather than denying this, ballets are expanding efforts to tap into new audiences and to innovate quickly.

Marketers and innovators in any industry can take notes from ballet’s recent efforts to reinvigorate the 400 year old art form.  Here are three points that marketers and innovators can remember when engaging younger generations:

  1. Understand their behavior and create offerings tailored to their needs. SF Ballet recently launched The List – a place for fans ages 21-39 to subscribe to in order to receive updates on last minute tickets to the ballet. New York City Ballet offers tickets for $29 for those under 29. With a generation who makes plans last minute and loves free subscriptions and deals, this is spot on.
  1. Borrow the audience of adjacent categories and leverage trends. One of the best examples of this is Sensorium, an event held by SF Ballet that doesn’t even have ballet in the title. It was marketed as an evening of “sensory overload”, with cocktails, dance, art, and music, and of course, an after party. This event is a perfect example of tapping into trends of memorable experiences that can be shared in real time as bite-sized content.
  1. Create partnerships that promote transparency. Ballerina Project is a beautiful example of this. What started as one photographer’s dream of photographing ballerinas dancing offstage, has grown into a multimedia project that not only showcases the talents and raw emotions of real dancers, but partners with fashion brands to advertise. My personal favorite is the partnership with AG jeans that creatively displays the comfort and flexibility of their denim (this post of a ballerina soaring through the air in AG jeans received over 30k Instagram likes). Ballerina Project has opened up the conversation around dance, fashion, and added a level of transparency to the world of dance.


The world of ballet is thriving more than ever before, and quickly growing its audience, and I hope this is just the start of where ballet will venture. It’s clear that through talking with users and engaging with them directly, marketing teams have created buzz and conversation, without losing the authenticity and power of classical ballet, but rather giving new generations space to influence and engage with the future of the ballet.

Image credit: Ballerina Project

antedote is an award-winning strategic insights and innovation consultancy based in San Francisco, and we have helped many of the world’s leading brands like Pepsico and Unilever to garner deeper insights about their consumer and identify opportunities to grow their brands. 

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From the Antedote Library: Top 14 Books for Inspiration

The holiday season is upon us, and what better time then now to cozy up to a warm fireplace with a good book.

Here are our top 14 fireplace reads from the Antedote library that have inspired us and our work.

Books for Inspiration

1_how to get to ideas
How to Get Ideas by Jack Foster
Easy, fun read with practical tips on how to get inspired and unstuck.

1001 Extra/Ordinary Objects by Oliviero Toscani
Somebody’s ordinary is always somebody else’s extraordinary. Open any page and go on a cultural journey through the world of “stuff”.

Lovemarks by Kevin Roberts
Beautifully laid out with inspiring brand stories behind the legends that consumers have irrational emotional connections with.

Home – A Short History of an Idea
by Witold Rybczynski
How has societal changes influenced the idea of home, specifically around the concept of privacy and comfort? It’s important to look back at the history of why things are the way they are in order to get the fuller picture of how our current culture is shaping these ideas.

The Method Method: Seven Obsessions That Helped Our Scrappy Start-up Turn an Industry Upside Down
by Eric Ryan, Adam Lowry, Lucas Conley
Making business and innovation strategy more accessible.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
 by Austin Kleon

Innovation starts from stealing.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
by Chip and Dan Heath
Ideas stick if they are Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and are Stories.

Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Even a picture of a hat could really be a boa constrictor who’s eaten an elephant…if only we look at it with a different perspective.

Lean Startup
by Eric Ries
Growing a successful competitive business it about efficiently learning what your customers will buy. The Lean Startup delivers a compelling recipe with fantastic ideas for shortcuts.

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The Social Psychology of Material Possessions – To Have is to Be
by Helga Dittmar
Stuff…. Without it you’re nothing.

Steve Jobs
by Walter Isaacson

The full inspirational story of the life, character, obsessions and decisions of the man that created and resurrected one of the world’s most innovative companies.

Green Eggs and Ham
by Dr. Seuss
Whatever you face in life, whatever you fears or expectations – JUST TRY IT!

Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think
 by Peter Diamandis
A really inspiring and positive take on the future and how innovation can step in and create that better future.

on Advertising by David Ogilvy
A classic and entertaining read on how to sell the idea from the undisputed grandfather of advertising.