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Jon Thrower

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Creativity Exercises

Foreword

The following exercises are intended as "warm ups for the brain" for either group or individual creativity sessions. They all assume there is one leader who sets the challenge, and facilitates. With all brainstorming exercises, the following rules should be applied:

  • No criticism, of the self or of others
  • Build on other people's ideas
  • The wackier the idea, the better

For group work, it generally works better if the warm up is appropriate to the general tasks to be performed. For example, if the group task is mainly analytical, then use a puzzle based warm up works best.

For more categories and examples for some of the warm ups, see Improvisation Scenarios.

Name 10...

Description:

Simply get everyone to shout out contributions of items that fall into a particular category as fast as possible. Write them up on a flip chart or white board. 

 

Vary the target number according to how many people there are in the group. Good for generating energy on a Monday morning. When they've got ten, get them to produce another two. Some examples are shown below.

  • Films linked to monkeys
  • Famous Edwards
  • Things you can drink out of 
  • Body parts with three letters in them
  • Alternatives to toilet paper

Variations:

Depending on the group and the context, the leader can try and keep the number below ten by arguing that suggestions aren't in the category (but don't do this if it's a warm up for brainstorming work, or if you're encouraging people to contribute).

It sometimes helps to have slightly odd or ambiguous categories, so that there are three or four obvious ones, and then a leap of lateral thinking is required to get the rest.

Alternative Uses

Suggest as many possible alternative uses for an every day item as possible. Some suggestions follow. About five minutes should be enough for an individual, and then another five for a group session.

  • The little plastic canisters that 35mm film comes in
  • A dishwashing brush
  • A newspaper
  • A child's paddling pool

Individual Brainstorm 

On their own, individuals write down as many things as they can think of within an unusual or comical category. After five minutes or so, or when everyone's stopped writing, people share the ideas they've had in individual session. The group is then encouraged to come up with additional ideas based on what other people have contributed. Some possible categories are shown below:

  • Email Subjects you don't want to see on Monday morning
  • Useless Patents
  • Superheros that Marvel turned away
  • Titles of TV series that were never made
  • Unsuccessful shops

Puzzle

Present the group with a problem or puzzle to solve. The best ones require some lateral thinking, so that people bouncing ideas around the group will lead to it being solved fairly rapidly. Be prepared to provide some clues.

Tear it Down

Take an existing well established product (such as an aeroplane or car). Provide a description of it, as if it were a brand new product and get  the group to come up with as many reasons as possible why this product will never succeed.

Jon Thrower © 2007
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