The Double-Decker Couch – Part One, Introduction

In one of my favorite animated movies, The Lego Movie, there is a double-decker couch. It appears early in the film when the main character, Emmet, and his two friends magically enter the space inside Emmet’s mind.

Emmet:           Whoa, are we inside my brain right now? It’s big. I must be smart.

Friend 1:         I’m not hearing a whole lot of activity in here.

Friend 2:         I don’t think he’s ever had an original thought in his life.

Emmet:           That’s not true. For instance, one time I wanted a bunch of my friends to come over to watch TV. . . Not everybody can fit on my one couch, and I thought to myself, well, what if there’s such a thing as a bunkbed but as a couch? Introducing the double decker couch! So everyone could watch TV together and be buddies!

Friend 2:         That’s literally the dumbest thing I ever heard.

Friend 1:         Please, let me handle this. That idea is just the worst.[1]

The first time I saw The Lego Movie, I empathized with Emmet. I know what it’s like to have an exhilarating burst of creativity followed by an emotional plummet when other people dismiss your idea. Sure, people on the lower couch might complain about feet blocking their view and you might need an extra-high ceiling, but I liked the idea. Maybe you can get one on Amazon? I thought. Have to check when I get back to the apartment.

The story of Emmet and his double-decker couch doesn’t end with the rejection of his friends, however. Later in film, Emmet saves his friends’ lives by building a hollowed-out double-decker couch as a place to hide, and they grudgingly admit that the double-decker couch idea isn’t “just the worst.”

Unlike Emmet, my story didn’t end in my favor. When I got back to the apartment after watching the movie for the first time, I tried to convince my roommates to order a double-decker couch online. (It turns out you can get a double-decker couch on Amazon.) They insisted that buying a double-decker couch was not only unsafe, it was ridiculous. Plus, it sounded dumb. Just the worst.

Since that day, I have wondered why some creative ideas gain traction while others get dismissed. Why are some ideas perceived as creative and others not? Who gets to make that decision? I would love to know the secret for how to guide others to see my creative work the way I do. I’m studying to be an engineer—something I’ve dreamed of since I started building with Legos as a kid. Shouldn’t I understand how creativity works? Maybe creative questions require creative answers. So, I invite you to sit back and relax with me on my imaginary double-decker couch as we explore how creativity works.

This is part one of a seven-part essay series on the creative process. Click here for part two.


[1] The Lego Movie, Warner Home Video.


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