Cracking creativity #5

(I tend to get in the way of myself if I try to write things for an audience, if you know what I mean – but I am very happy to see that my posts about Michael Michalko’s Cracking Creativity has been appreciated by creativity and innovation weblogger Renee Hopkins, and The Innovation Weblog. My previous posts can be found hereherehere – and here.)

I’m fascinated by the idea that the mind can’t resist connecting two thoughts, however unrelated. This fact is exploited by several of the techniques in the book. Currently, I’m reading about how to explore analogies to get more ideas. And today, I tried to randomly pick objects and see what associations would form between them and an idea for a project I have (I don’t want to reveal any details at this stage).

Today, while taking a walk with my daughter in the morning (her sleeping, me thinking) I tried the objects air condition, wastebasket, fishing boat, icebreaker (boat), and oil (all things that I saw during the walk). Several associations came to me for each of these objects, but fishing boat and icebreaker were the most useful. It’s a software application that I’m thinking of, and the concepts of fishing boats going out to catch fish; fishermen subject to fishing quotas; the fact that some fish will be rejected on the spot, while the rest will be sold for different prices at a fish market – all these concepts made sense to the context, and made me think of new things.

As for icebreaker, I saw this as a ship that enables other ships to pass more easily to places, which made me think that the application should communicate things to other running applications in the network (as peers) to help them serve their users better. Very interesting.

I remember seeing a program on TV several years ago, about a famous Swedish architect (I can’t remember his name, though). I only caught the end of it, where he was walking in the forest saying that in his days, he had the time to take walks in the forest, “spending time” with his ideas about the building he was planning – which he felt that architects today couldn’t, because of time pressure. One of the techniques in Michalko’s book is called “Thought Walk”, or something similar. You take a walk around the office or outside, and pick things you see along the way, as objects to spawn new ideas. I’m sure the architect was inspired by things he saw on his walks, although I think he meant that ideas must be allowed to take time.

Another thing that I remembered as I read the book was a technique I used when I was younger; I used to draw a lot, and I often got inspiration by turning the paper around and seeing what the things I had drawn looked on the backside. I remember thinking that the things I drew based on ideas I got from this were better. Another technique was to just draw something completely at random, and see if I could “see” anything in the result. The book mentions that Leonardo da Vinci used to throw sponges with paint at the wall, to get ideas from the stains they left. Perhaps I shouldn’t have given up drawing …

The above was posted to my personal weblog on December 5, 2002. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.

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