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The Rules of Genius #19: Put the surprise where you want the attention

The rule for surprise is this: Direct the most attention to the most important part of your idea. Don’t sprinkle surprise around randomly, or the result will be scattered attention and a loss of focus.

Some examples of focusing surprise:

You write a particularly catchy musical sequence for a pop song. You make sure the most important lyrics are contained in that sequence.
You add an exciting new feature to a product. You make sure the feature underscores your brand’s most compelling difference.
You design a trademark for a business. You make sure the strategic uniqueness of the business is reflected in its symbolism and form.
Your movie script has an emotionally charged scene. You make sure the scene creates a turning point or encapsulates the main theme.
You make a slide presentation. You save your most compelling point for your most dramatic slide.
You write a headline for an ad. You place the most powerful word at the end of the sentence.

While these examples may seem obvious, their lessons can be easily forgotten in the heat of creation. It’s not too late to make changes after the first draft or the first pass. In fact, that’s usually the best time to do it—after you see what you’ve got, and before you present it to others.

Next week: Apply aesthetics deliberately.
Bring clarity, excitement, and nuance to your work.

The Rules of Genius is now a book with a bonus section called “How can I matter?” that includes 10 essential rules.  Buy here.

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