An Association Machine

Brainstorming is a very Neurobic activity, because its goal is to encourage individuals to make associations and then to cross-fertilize them with other people's associations.

Arthur B. VanGundy, an expert on brainstorming, suggests having a varied group of four to six people, with one person acting as facilitator and note taker. The facilitator presents the problem or opportunity—whether it's for a new product or service, or resolving a difficult situation. Individuals are encouraged to offer up as

many ideas as possible, no matter how unpolished, silly, or "wild." No one may evaluate orjudge anything that's brought up, or dominate the session. Instead, participants must free-associate to build or "hitchhike" on each other's suggestions. The facilitator writes the suggestions on a board or sheets of newsprint for all to see and keeps the mood playful and fun. (Afterward, those responsible for the assignment take all the ideas, group them into categories, and select those with the most valuable raw material.)

^ The word brainstorm itself conjures up images offlashing lightning bolts. The lightning bolts in the brain are really the electrical/lashes crisscrossing between brain areas that only rarely communicate, and the "storm" captures the idea that this exercise provides an environment for increasing the number and intensity ofthese unusual associations.

Another effective technique using associations to stimulate creativity is often used by illustrators and art directors. It is based on a technique that originated at the Batelle Institute in Frankfurt, Germany. Write down the assignment or problem, and generate two or more columns of associations that relate to it. Then combine associations from one column with those from the other. If, for example, the task is to illustrate an article about vacations in Alaska, you might list:

Vacations

Alaska

camping

cold

beach

ice

cruise ship

polar bears

camera

eagle

sunglasses

bears

suitcases

salmon

cars, trains, planes

Eskimos

relaxing

oil wells

swimming (pools)

wilderness

eating

snow

sleeping

hunting

reading

fishing

drinks

dog sleds

After much cross-referencing you might decide to illustrate a picture of an Eskimo and a polar bear holding up their salmon to be photographed by a tourist.. .or a polar bear wearing sunglasses reading in a beach chair and being served drinks.

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