Few of My Favorite Activities

It is difficult to say that any one technique is better than another. Each of us may respond differently to any given approach. What works well for you may fizzle for me. Your mood and any number of other factors may also influence your reaction. Obviously, the same holds true for any training participants.

I do, however, have my own particular favorites, which are presented in the following "Top Ten" lists. In many cases, it was almost impossible to choose among the various activities. This was especially true for the group activities. (Remember that all the individual methods can be used by groups but not all the group methods can be used by individuals.)

Although I've provided a brief rationale statement for each activity, it may not work for you or your particular training objective or problem challenge. Experience and the selection guide at the end of this chapter will be your best resources. The activities are presented in no particular order.

Top Ten Individual Activities

1. Combo Chatter [24] (Combines two related stimuli in a way that provokes ideas much as unrelated stimuli.)

2. Picture Tickler [17] (Uses unrelated pictures to generate ideas. Many people respond well to visual stimuli, especially stimuli unrelated to a problem.)

3. I Like It Like That [55] (Analogies have been used for years to resolve especially difficult problems, have been researched by academicians favorably, and help users create novel perspectives.)

4. What if. . . ? [49] (This simple "sentence trigger" helps push us to explore the limits of our imagined possibilities and reduces restrictions imposed by conventional assumptions.)

5. PICLed Brains [16] (Based on 476 words unrelated to a problem. The number and variety of stimuli seem to help trigger free associations naturally. So it will be especially useful for those who can free-associate easily but also for those who cannot.)

6. Turn Around [52] (One of my all-time favorites due to its ability to force us to consider even the most basic assumptions that may be blocking us and to use them to provoke ideas.)

7. Exaggerate That [39] (A cousin to Turn Around [52], this activity provides another way to easily surface unwarranted assumptions and transform them into ideas.)

8. Tickler Things [21] (This relative of Picture Tickler [17] and PICLed Brains [16] provides participants with unrelated, tangible objects they can touch, see, and use as idea triggers.)

9. Get Crazy [5] (The ideas we normally might label as "crazy"—such as the telephone originally was—often are the ones that force us to expand our perspectives and then look for something practical out of the initially absurd. The deliberate search for "crazy" ideas often can move us in new directions.)

10. Preppy Thoughts [32] (One great thing about this activity is that it helps spark visual thinking by placing random prepositions between a problem statement's verb and objective, thus providing a unique combination of multiple idea stimuli.)

Top Ten Group Activities

1. What's the Problem? [70] (When other activities fail in their ability to spark unique ideas, this activity can be a savior, although the setup for the stimuli involve a little more effort. Its most powerful feature is the ease with which it can eliminate preconceived notions and spark novelty.)

2. Drawing Room [59] (Three positive features are the use of unrelated stimuli, the number of stimuli, and the requirement for people to walk around a room and look at various drawings. Research shows that movement can facilitate creative thinking.)

3. The Name Game [97] (Although it is somewhat more complex and time-consuming than many activities, it's game-like format and focus on transforming supposedly improbable ideas into workable ones makes this exercise a potential winner.)

4. Brain Purge [82] (If you need a lot of ideas in a short time and can depend on the group members as your primary source of stimuli, this pure brainwriting activity is for you.)

5. Museum Madness [86] (This cousin of Drawing Room [59] shares some advantages—multiple stimuli and walking around—and differs primarily in that participants browse among the written ideas of others instead of their pictures of possible solutions.)

6. Brainsketching [94] (If you have little time but like the more time-consuming Drawing Room [59] activity, this is an excellent substitute. Ideas are generated using pictures drawn by the participants, but instead of people circulating among the drawings as done in [59], this activity works by circulating the pictures among group members only.)

7. Balloon, Balloon, Balloon [92] (Need an energizer and want to generate ideas at the same time? Then this activity is for you. It also encourages novelty by using unrelated stimuli. This activity exemplifies the "fun factor" that often is vital to novel thinking.)

8. Brain Splitter [73] (Requires a little more time than some activities, but attempts to synthesize both left- and right-brained types of ideas to produce workable solutions. It also involves some physical movement with the participants as well as creates a relatively fun environment.)

9. Grab Bag Forced Association [75] (A variation of Tickler Things [21], this activity is slightly more structured, introduces random selection of the stimuli, but provides the same benefits of relying on tangible, unrelated stimulus objects.)

10. Pass the Hat [63] (Provides an interesting and usually productive blend of stimuli from problem attributes as well as from the ideas of others. The use of "silly" hats to pass around the stimuli also introduces the "fun factor" for creative climates.)

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