Can a paperclip save the world?


Can a paperclip save the world? Probably not.. but wait a minute…

Perhaps it’s because the paperclip is such a simple and yet ingenious, ubiquitous artefact that it’s used as a trigger to start thinking more creatively (well, by me anyway).

The first patent for a bent wire paperclip was awarded in the United States to Samuel B. Fay, in 1867. This clip was originally intended primarily for attaching tickets to fabric. His doesn’t resemble the familiar object we know today. That was invented in the 1870s in Britain by the Gem Manufacturing Company (and is still known technically as the Gem Paperclip) although no patent was filed, leading to many later claims and variation on the classic design.

So here’s the task:

How many non-uses of a paper-clip can you think of? Things you cannot use a paperclip for.

Most people find this quite hard which shows they are not fluid at activating the right side of their brain. This is a lateral thinking task because you have to get off the track of thinking of actual uses of a paper-clip. This tests how random you can be.

The task is actually quite easy since there are actually very few sensible uses of a paper-clip. You can use one to clip paper together (obviously) and you can use one to eject stuck CDs from computers. But not much else. So almost anything else will do, except people find it so, so difficult.

Here are a few examples:

You can’t fly to the moon on a paper-clip. You can’t marry a paper-clip. You can’t use a paper-clip to teach snails quantum physics.

One of the reasons people freeze up and can’t think of anything, especially in groups, is that someone has said something clever, witty or particlularly good so now they have to compete with that. This doesn’t help. When generating ideas you do not and can not compete with anyone, it’ll modify how you think and shut down your creative process. The point is not to outdo one another or try to be funny or clever. The point is to come up with ideas. You ned to be influenced and riff off what others come up with because ideas comes from other ideas.

So what else?

You cannot use a paper-clip to solve world poverty…. hang on, perhaps you can. If we do this…. and this… and suddenly a brave new idea has been found that changes the world. And all because judgemental thinking such as ‘that won’t work, that’s stupid’ has been turned off. Try it yourself.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

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Brainstorming doesn’t work


Is it time to start thinking of ideas generation in a different way and sacrifice the sacred cows of old? Should we admit what people have known for sometime, that so-called traditional brainstorming doesn’t work?

Ideastorm, brainstorming, ideas generation, training workshopIf brainstorming is simply dumping a bunch of people in a boardroom and expect them to suddenly ‘get creative’ and come up with some amazing ideas then it’s no wonder it fails.

There are two key elements of the classic brainstorm that we want to examine and challenge here and they’re both wrapped up together:

  • Brainstorming is a group activity
  • There should be no judgmental, critical or negative attitudes in the meeting.

So lets get stuck in on some clear and simple facts on the matter: Firstly, let’s admit that it’s individuals who think of ideas, not groups. But we all know from personal experience that one of the things that can inspire an individual to think of a great idea is being in a group. But it has to be the right group.

…Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University, has summarized the science: “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.”

– Johan Lehrer in the New Yorker, January 2012

Large groups or groups that contain political or power plays will not work. People will feel inhibited or too much pressure to perform or conform. All those things ruin the creative process in the mind.

This is why the original brainstorming condition is to have no negative or judgmental attitudes in the meeting. This is the main mantra of idea generation practitioners because most people are so lacking in confidence in their own creativity that one harsh comment will shut them down.

But there’s another reason to get the group dynamic right. Think about yourself for a moment. It’s really annoying to be in a group that doesn’t ‘get’ where you’re coming from or doesn’t let you speak. They might not have the inside track on the issues or they may not be as engaged in the theme as you are. They may not listen to your valuable insight, preferring the sound of their own voices. In any large group there’s bound to be some arrogance or envy and let’s face it, people you don’t like or don’t get on with.

This leads us to that brainstorming rule. The only way to deal with this problem is to level the playing field by bringing in the ‘don’t be rude and don’t be negative’ instruction. It creates the democracy to allow everyone equal say and have equal value. Sounds good in principle but in practice something else happens.

Research has been done that ‘proves’ that by not having debate, criticism and argument, a soft and fluffy nice meeting is manifested where too many diverse ideas are generated that cause ‘cognitive fixation’ . The mind gets blocked and fixated on those multitude of ideas and fails to break out into something innovative. Everyone is too busy being nice.

Too many organisations are running their sessions under these wrong conditions. They may have too many people, too many of the same type of people or too many disparate people.

By fixating on the democratisation of creativity are we mixing up the different types of contributions that individuals and groups can bring?

Perhaps we expect too much from an ‘idea’ meeting. Do we expect great original idea after great original idea? Perhaps what we should be aiming for is smaller quantum jumps from ideas put forward. Perhaps the role of a group is to fiddle with ideas put forward by individuals, who have already made intuitive leaps, and to improve those ideas?

Throughout history, groups and teams have out-performed individuals in the elaboration, expression, development and manifestation of an idea. Yes, an individual may be remembered as the one who ‘thought of it’, the the combined group mind always improves and builds on it.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney ink drawingWith the Beatles the main ideas generating group for their songwriting was John Lennon and Paul McCartney, working together to create all those hits. So here we have a brainstorming group of just two. They didn’t even let George in on the songwriting meetings, he and Ringo would have to wait until the songs were more or less finished and presented to the group to arrange and embellish.

But Lennon and McCartney didn’t run a ‘let’s be nice to each other’s views’ songwriting brainstorm. It’s well documented that their differences and disagreements would cause arguments and fights. And yet it was these differences that made them great (and the same differences would eventually pull them apart).

We have the stereotypes of McCartney singing the optimistic, “It’s getting better all the time” and Lennon add the sardonic, cynical, “couldn’t get no worse”.

They’d do that with each other, face to face, opposite each other with guitars. With McCartney being left handed they would have appeared as if looking into a mirror.

Paul would sing, “She was just seventeen, you know what I mean” and John would stop and say, “I LOVE that!”. In Hey Jude, Paul sings a line he was unhappy with, “the movement you need is on your shoulder” and John retorted, “don’t change it, that’s the best bit!”.

We now know that although all those Lennon-McCartney songs were credited as equal compositions, they were nearly all instigated by one of the pair first and then worked up afterwards, together, then further developed with the other members of their team.

Paul McCartney may have thought of the ‘idea’ for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. But it was the team of the four Beatles, their producer and engineers that embellished, elaborated, enhanced and manifested that idea into the record.

This should be our new model for brainstorming (or Ideastorming as I call it). Here are the new guidelines:

  • get a small group of two to five people who you trust. Could you bare to be stuck with them in traffic for eight hours? Could you bare to be stranded overnight with them?
  • each prime mover puts forward their ideas and the others help to change, embellish, enhance or reject them as an evolving debate.

Can it really be that simple? Actually yes. The secret to making brainstorming work was not to leave your brain at the door. All along we should have been using a healthy dose of common sense and realise that no strict formula or rules of ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do this’ has any place in creativity.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Click here to learn about Ayd’s Ideastorm workshops.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

The ultimate joint venture for creativity: collaborate with your former selves


(Learn here the secret method of Experiential Creativity)

There are two types of creativity. One, we all have (but most lose) and that is the one we are all born with and use as children: the ability to experiment.

The second is not talked about, and again few use and yet we all have access to it. It is making new patterns from our experiences to create new ideas and new solutions.

We know we need to use our Experimental Creativity, to try new things without judgement, every creativity guru will tell you that (including me).

But what about this other type: Experiential Creativity. How can we harness that?

If you’ve ever watched the television programme Doctor Who, you’ll know that in its 48 year history a number of different actors have played the role. Each of the 11 official incarnations of the character are of course the same man. When his body wears out or gets injured he ‘regenerates’ into an new, entirely different looking man. It was a brilliant conceit by the writers that they could replace the lead actor with another one whenever they needed to and he didn’t have to look, dress or act the same. (Remember those annoying programmes that swapped the main actor to a look-a-like and expected us not to notice? Remember Joey from Bread?)

Ayd Instone as Doctor Who title sequenceFor the 10th and 20th anniversaries* of the programme the producers thought it would be a good idea for a storyline to have a threat so great that the Doctor couldn’t solve it on his own so he would have to have help – from himself, in the form of his ‘former selves’.

Now of course they could have pulled out of time a version of the Doctor from a couple of weeks earlier or months earlier. But that earlier version would have looked more or less the same, bar a different velvet jacket. It was much more fun to have coincidentally the Timelords pulling a versions of the Doctor from his previous incarnations. It made for a great story, they could argue and call each other names, but being different versions of the same man, eventually work together to solve the problem in the story.

My proposition to you is that we should all do the same.

Ayd Instone 1973

Now, unless you’re a Timelord with a number of regenerations, the chances are you look pretty much the same when you look back at your life. Perhaps you looked a little younger. Perhaps you wore different clothes.

Look back at your life and decide (arbitrarily of course) which eras of your life you can catergorise as separate incarnations.

It could be that the child version of us is one, the teenage version of us is another. When we were a New Romantic or Punk could be one, when we were a student could be another. If there was an era where you thought in a particular way or dressed in a particular way, define that as an incarnation. Perhaps we can divide out lives into 5 or 11 incarnations (depending on how long you’re own adventure series has run so far).

Ayd Instone 1989

You can see 6 of my incarnations on this very page. Don’t worry if you don’t look as odd as I do. You don’t have to be weird for this to work (but it helps).

Then define that key characteristics of each incarnation. What did they like, believe, love, hate? How did they dress and what did they do.

If you think deeply about it you’ll find there are differences. Just like how Doctor Who is the same man, the same essential character throughout, each version has idiosyncrasies that make him look at life in slightly different ways in each incarnation.

The same is true for us.

Ayd Instone 1992

This exercise is important because the greatest Mastermind Group, the greatest Think Tank, the greatest Team we can have working with us and for us is one that comprises of us in each of our incarnations. If we can get our experiences (comprising as they are of memory and emotions) ‘online’, i.e. accessible to us, we will have at our disposal the greatest creativity and problem solving methods there are.

It took three Doctors to defeat the renegade Omega, creator of the black hole, the Eye of Harmony, that made him the architect of time travel. It took five Doctors to defeat his former tutor, Borusa, who sought the immortality of the very first Time Lord, Rassilon.

Ayd Instone 1995

How many ‘yous’ will it take to solve your current or greatest challenge? The good news is that they’ll all available to be pulled out of time and be consulted to gain their unique take, wisdom and experiences to augment our current selves.

Who knows, perhaps our current incarnations will be called upon by a future version of ourselves to solve an even greater challenge. Just like in Doctor Who, we often find that we’ll have the answers within us all along.

(* They very nearly pulled it off again for the 30th anniversary, but for various reasons, didn’t. They did do something, but we don’t talk about that…)

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com


 

Never ever try to think of a great idea ever again


GolfIf I was to play golf, never having played it before, and made the statement, “If I’m going to play this game, I only want to get hole-in-ones'”. What would happen when I teed off?

If I was going to be a photographer, having just equipped myself with an expensive digital SLR camera and I made the statement, “I’m only going to take great photos.” How many photos would I take?

If I was going to train as a research scientist and made the statement, “I’m only going to engage in ground-breaking research.” What new discoveries would I make?

The answers are of course that the odds are stacked incredibly high against being successful in any of the three. I wouldn’t hit a hole-in-one. I’d take one or two photographs before realising that my photos were rubbish and I’d feel a massive sense of under-achievement in the laboratory as I worked on mundane run-of-the-mill tests.

In each of these examples you have to do things badly to start with and then you get better. It’s obvious. So why, when it comes to generating ideas do we expect and somehow think we’re capable, of having great ideas without having lots of not-so-great ideas first? It’s like trying for the hole-in-one, you’re basically relying on random chance – you’re not playing the game.

Never, ever, ever, ever try to think of a good or great idea ever again. Unless you want to waste time and fail, that is. We need to understand that to be creative and generate earth-shatteringly brilliant ideas we need to set off trying to think of IDEAS, not great ideas. There is a subtle difference. By trying to think of great ideas you are starting off with judgemental thinking. To know that you’ve just thought of a great idea means that you’re verifying, critisising and evaluating the idea as soon as it is formed. This means you’re still locked into critical thinking, which we know, doesn’t have access to your full potential. You’re cutting out the creative driver of the process.

It’s hard to cut out critical thinking. We’re programmed to think that way. This means we’ll find it very difficult to just think of ‘ideas’ instead of ‘great ideas’, postponing the evaluation till the brainstorming session is over. To get over this, the secret is to deliberately think of bad ideas. By bad ideas I mean really, really bad ones.

Think of your most pressing problem at the moment. Can you think of 21 stupid, bad, rubbish and surreal ways to solve the problem? Think of ways that could make the problem worse. The aim here is to deliberately be unconstructive. This will help keep judgement and analysis at bay and will also open up the mind to possibilities (giving your mind permission to ‘think out of the box’). Your critical thinking brain will eventually just give up, allowing right brain possibility thinking to take over and start making some really unusual connections. You’ll find this tough too. I don’t think you’ll be able to do it, you’ll be so locked into left brain critical thinking mode.Try to prove me wrong and list 21 really bad ideas. Some people censor their thoughts so much they won’t be able to even attempt this. Remember, I’m not asking you to actually DO them – just think of them.

Then go back over the list. Notice what further ideas are triggered from the bad ones. Perhaps by ‘inverting’ a bad idea it becomes an idea so wonderfully good that you would never have considered had you not freed yourself from critical thinking.

Keep thinking the impossible and the ridiculous. If you think only about sensible ideas and search only for the perfect idea then you’ll also fail to come up with anything new. The route to genius does not lie on the often travelled path. Keep deliberately thinking of stupid, preposterous and truly ridiculous ideas (and write them all down). These open up new routes for your mind to explore and find new answers.

See if you can do it.

Book Ayd to speak at your event.
For more interesting info see:

www.aydinstone.com

We love stupid ideas


Stupid, idiotic, bad ideas are great. Think of bad ideas. Think of very, very stupid ideas. I challenge you – think of five stupid ways you could improve your business or lifestyle right now. Five rubbish ideas.

Bad ideas are good because bad ideas lead to good ideas. If you wanted to be a photographer but didn’t take a single photograph until you were sure that every photo you were going to take would be a good one – you wouldn’t take any photos. Creativity seems like an illusive mist to most people who think that creativity is some sort of gift. It is not a gift, it is a skill. Like any skill it has methods that need to be mastered. Like any skill the methods need to be practised. Just knowing the lines of a play aren’t enough. It’s the rehearsal that makes it work.

You can learn how to negotiate, how to project manage and how to sell. There are courses on all of those. You can practice those in your field of work. But don’t leave out creativity from the mix. Learn the techniques and use them to get the ideas to get ahead.

We need to think new thoughts. Find better ways of doing things. Find better things to do. That’s what people overlook. That’s what creativity is.

So when you have a problem and you need a solution don’t be concerned with convention. Don’t be concerned with what’s expected. Don’t be concerned with what people will think. Don’t even be concerned with what’s possible. If you put constraints like these on your ideas or if you judge your ideas during the brainstorming phase you might as well give up and join the legion of mediocrity because these things will prevent you from having the best ideas at best, but will more than likely totally kill the process at worst.

Work out what is actually possible and allowed later, in the planning phase, not in the creative ideas phase. Learn to play, to make new associations, swap things around, wonder, be silly, experiment. These are the attributes that will enable you to solve the problem with a unique solution and to think of that elusive winning idea.

Where do good ideas come from? From Bad ideas. So don’t be a fool, think of foolish ideas. Get them out and get them out of the way. Don’t judge them or analyse them, just get them flowing out. It’s from associations connected to these bad ideas that the really great ideas will come.

For more see:
www.aydinstone.com
www.sunmakers.co.uk

Practical Brainstorming


Previously we looked at the rules for setting up a brainstorming meeting. Useful if you don’t want your meetings to descend into a embarrassing waste of time for some and an ego-boosting time for others that leave you with less ideas than when you started with. If you missed the rules look here. So what do we do now?

1. Choose a recorder: Someone must be put in charge of writing down all the ideas. The ideas should be written on a large board or somewhere where the whole group can see them. Big is beautiful here. In an ideal session, the recorder should be a non participant in the brainstorming session so they don’t edit or influence what they write down. They write down everything. Most especially the bad ideas which are the most important. If this person knows how to Mind-Map, all the better. If they don’t know what a Mind-Map is, send them on an Ideas Workshop course.

2. Organise the chaos: For groups of more than three or four, have a chairperson to choose who will offer an idea next, so that several people don’t speak at once. If necessary the chairperson will also remind members of the group not to inject evaluation into the session, to encourage and to stop nay-sayers (repeat offenders should be ejected from the meeting). Imagine the meeting as one brain that has one gestalt consciousness which flits easily from one spokesperson at the meeting to another like an ethereal beach ball. A person only talks when the ‘ball’ touches their head.

3. Keep the session relaxed and playful: Creative juices flow best when participants are relaxed and enjoying themselves and feeling free to be silly or playful. Bring snacks and drinks into the session. Seriousness is not permitted, no matter how serious the issues facing the group are.

4. Creativity games: Start with some irrelevant problems that bare no relation to the problem at hand. How could you light a house with a single light bulb? Name ten alternative uses for a brick. How could you improve a common object, such as a coffee cup. The idea is to open your mind to un-thought of possibilities. We’re interested in making connections that haven’t been made before. Get random.

5. Break through blocks: We all get blocks. The most common is the fixation block. This is where a person can’t see past the obvious and the mundane. They may even be pre-judging. Get them to think of 25 uses of the tooth brush and 25 non-uses for a paper clip. You may be blocked by ‘reality’. Reality plays no part in the session. Remember you don’t want to just come up with the same old rubbish so you need to think in a different way. Reality will stop you doing that. Ask ‘what if?’. Do not place reality blocks. What if we could see smells? What if all the iron in the world vanished? Think the ‘what if’ through to conclusion.

6. Limit the session: A typical session should be limited to about fifteen to thirty minutes. The idea is not to exhaust yourselves.

7. Make copies: After the session, neaten up the ideas papers and make copies for each member of the session. No attempt should be made to put the list in any particular order.

8. Add and evaluate: The group should meet again on a subsequent day. First,
ideas thought of since the previous session should be shared.

Then evaluation begins.

For more see:
www.aydinstone.com
www.sunmakers.co.uk

An Introduction to Brainstorming


Ideastorm brainstorming ideasBrainstorming (or mindstorming) is the process that everybody thinks they understand but very few people do. There are two reasons is for this. The first is that it is best used for attacking specific rather than general problems and where a collection of good, fresh, new ideas are needed. This means not going over old ground or asking too open ‘what are we going to do now?’ type questions. The second reason is that it is not the place for analysis, judgements or decision making. You must not have these within a mindstorming session – it simply won’t work. So here is a quick guide to the rules of running your mindstorming session:

1. Suspend judgement – this cannot be overstated. It’s the most important rule. When ideas are presented absolutely no critical comments are allowed. None at all. This is so hard for most people whose brains only operate in a critical (non-creative) manner. Filtering ideas will shut down the creative process and create an atm osphere where people won’t be willing to submit their ideas. This is why most sessions fail.

2. Write ALL ideas down – there are no bad ideas in a mindstorming session. Remember, no filtering. It’s quantity not quality you are interested in. Think along the lines that you need to get 100 or so ideas (not caring if they’re good or bad!) before you’re allowed to come up with something useful.

3. Think Impossible and Ridiculous – if you think only about sensible ideas and search only for the perfect idea then you’ll also fail to come up with anything new. The route to genius does not lie on the often travelled path. Deliberately think of stupid, preposterous and truly ridiculous ideas (and write them all down). These open up new routes for your mind and others to explore and find answers.

4. Enjoy it – be silly and playful. Seriousness kills the process. This is why boring people remain dull and serio us people never come up with anything new. The session is sacred. You are allowed to relax your guard.

5. No ownership – the ideas belong to the session not to one individual. If you don’t stress this people hold back, not wanting to give too much away in case credit is stolen. Everyone in the group gets credit as every mind will have contributed to the process.

For infomation on running a brainstorming meeting click here.

 

Book Ayd to speak at your event or train in your business.

www.aydinstone.com