Creativity – Litemind https://litemind.com Exploring ways to use our minds efficiently. Mon, 01 Jan 2018 20:43:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Deconstructing Creativity: The 4 Roles You Need to Play to be Fully Creative https://litemind.com/creativity-roles/ https://litemind.com/creativity-roles/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2010 12:16:50 +0000 http://litemind.com/deconstructing-creativity-the-4-roles-you-need-to-play-to-be-fully-creative/ Do you want to be fully creative? To not only have wild ideas, but to actually create and bring remarkable things to life? Learn the 4 roles you need to perform, how they help unleash your creativity and how to master the skills each one requires.

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The 4 Roles You Need to Play to be Fully Creative

Do you want to be fully creative? To not only have wild ideas, but to actually create and bring remarkable things to life?

There are four distinct roles to be performed for the creative process to be as effective as possible. Each one requires that you play different characters, with different mindsets and skills.

The roles are: Explorer, Artist, Judge and Warrior.

Learn how they help unleash your creativity and how to master the skills each one requires.

1. The Explorer

Ideas do not come out of the blue. In order to build them you first need to gather the raw materials: facts, concepts, experiences, knowledge, feelings — that’s what ideas are made of. To get all of that, you need an attitude of ongoing curiosity and exploration.

The Explorer is always in search of new things. He is relentlessly curious and never limits himself to a particular area of experience and knowledge. To have ideas is to connect dots. First and foremost you need lots of dots to connect — you need fuel for the formation of new ideas.

How to Develop Your Explorer

  • Be curious and alert. Poke around in unknown areas. Be like a child, by paying attention to the world and being receptive to it. Rediscover the fun in finding things out.

  • Seek out as many inputs as possible. Do not limit yourself to the tried and true. Read different books and see different movies from the ones you like. Also, don’t mind going after information “you’ll never use”. Seek many different areas of knowledge.

  • Talk to a lot of different people. Get to know many different perspectives. Talk to strangers. Don’t limit yourself to expert advice.

2. The Artist

The artist has ideas. He takes the raw materials from the Explorer and combines them in novel ways.

When people say someone’s “creative”, they’re usually referring to the Artist. The Artist has ideas mostly by trying new things. He applies his imagination by rearranging, turning things upside down, stirring things up. He pursues different approaches and finds unexpected connections. He’s playful; he doesn’t care about what people expect from him.

How to Develop Your Artist

  • Flex your idea muscles. Write down new ideas as they come to you; it stimulates your brain to generate more and more ideas. Also, use idea-generation tools deliberately: Lists of 100, Idea Quota and SCAMPER just to name a few.

  • Play! We all know it: the most efficient way to have new ideas is by having fun. Don’t always take problems too seriously. Entertain yourself and keep your brain fresh and ready.

  • Use your imagination. Leave practicality aside; don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild and visualize new possibilities. Dare to ask ‘what if’ and watch new realities unfold.

3. The Judge

The Judge is all about “getting real”. His job is to analyze the Artist’s wild ideas and assess if they’re practical — in the real world.

The judge questions assumptions; he compares and analyzes. He checks how feasible ideas are. No matter how much the Artist loves an idea, the Judge looks for counterarguments, checks evidence, and makes hard decisions. Combining gut feeling and analytical tools, the judge must only let through feasible ideas.

The Judge gets a bad reputation — but only because people usually invoke him too early. Killing an idea before the Artist can play with it is a pity; killing it later is oftentimes a necessity.

How to Develop Your Judge

  • Develop critical thinking. Check your assumptions, experimenting with hypotheses, analyzing results and drawing conclusions. Master decision making.

  • Be aware of thinking traps. Our minds deceive us. Be always aware and vigilant of your own biases. There are more ways than you can imagine that your thinking can go wrong. Really.

  • Be real. Will the idea give you the return you want? Do you have the resources to make it happen? Are you willing to put the effort to make it happen? Be practical and down-to-earth.

4. The Warrior

As soon as you have an idea ready to be executed you’ll realize the world isn’t set up to accommodate every new idea that comes along. The enemies can be external: competition may be fierce, or people may just don’t “get” your beautiful ideas. Even harder than those, there are more than enough enemies already within you: think resistance, excuses and fear of failure.

The Warrior’s job is to make ideas happen. For that, you’ll need not only a strategy and plan of action but to put in the hours — fight the daily fight.

That means remaining productive, developing the resilience and courage to overcome obstacles and, of course, being able to sell your ideas — whatever’s necessary to materialize them.

How to Develop Your Warrior

  • Overcome resistance. When you create something new, resistance inevitably creeps in. You need to find ways of overcoming procrastination and staying productive day in, day out.

  • Be courageous. In order to make things happen, you’ll need to let go of self-doubt and conquer fear of failure.

  • Market and sell your idea. Are you the only one who thinks your idea is great? Can you convince others of the merits of your idea? If you can’t sell your idea, it won’t get far.

Awareness and Timing are Critical Too

In reality, we all know the path to creativity is not that sequential — explorer-to-artist-to-judge-to-warrior. Usually, there’s a lot of switching back and forth between roles: The Judge may return an idea to the Artist for further development; the Artist may want more data from the Explorer to develop a certain idea, and so on.

This is fine. The main thing is to be aware of which role you’re performing at different points in time. We often get stuck in the Explorer role for too long. Or we may jump the gun and summon our Judge while our Artist is still working his magic. There are so many ways to spend too much or too little time in each role, or to overlap ineffectively.

The lesson is: make sure not only to develop the skill set for each role, but also to play each one at the appropriate time. Be aware of which phase of the creative process you’re in and what you’re trying to accomplish. All roles are equally important: make sure they’re playing well with each other.

Want to Know More? Here’s a Recommendation

A Whack on the Side of the HeadThese concepts above are not new. The idea of the four creativity roles comes from Roger Von Oech‘s classic work on creativity A Whack on the Side of the Head, as well as the Creative Whack Pack (which is a deck of cards where each of the four roles is a suit — very fun, do check it out too).

I have had this book for ages but only lately have been applying its principles and becoming more conscious of the steps of the creative process. There’s a myth that creativity needs to be wild and unplanned, that one cannot be trained to be creative. I’m increasingly convinced that that is not true and I will expand on this topic as I explore more. In the meantime, A Whack on the Side of the Head and Creative Whack Pack are two truly excellent resources I recommend for those interested in becoming more creative.



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Are you stuck in a rut? Run from the experts! https://litemind.com/run-from-experts/ https://litemind.com/run-from-experts/#comments Mon, 07 Dec 2009 16:20:52 +0000 http://litemind.com/are-you-stuck-in-a-rut-run-from-the-experts/ When you're stuck, it's tempting to go seek help from the experts. After all, someone much more knowledgeable should be the best source of ideas, right? Well, maybe not.

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Run from the Experts!

You’re facing a big challenge at work and can’t come up with any innovative ideas. Maybe your business is flagging or a particular area in your personal life has stalled. Either way, you could really use fresh new ideas to spice things up.

In situations like these it’s tempting to go seek help from the experts. After all, someone much more knowledgeable should be the best source of ideas, right?

Well, maybe not.

The Problem with Experts

Experts need to specialize. They need to draw boundaries around their subjects so they can narrow their focus and be as effective as possible in their fields.

This ‘compartmentalization in thinking’ is immensely useful in speeding up problem solving. It also means experts usually fall short in stretching their thinking beyond their areas of expertise, and as such fail to see the big picture.

Michael Michalko puts it well in his book Thinkertoys: “It’s like brushing one tooth. You get to know that one tooth extremely well, but you lose the rest of them in the process.”

But it gets worse: experts may not only miss obvious solutions, but they may actually cause harm, forcing inadequate solutions that fall within their area of expertise. “To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail”, psychologist Abraham Maslow wisely remarked.

Although experts are often useful, when it comes to innovation you may actually be better off without them.

An Alternative: Embrace The Nonexperts Around You

The alternative to talking to experts is — drum roll — talking to nonexperts, of course.

Regular people around you. Your soccer buddies. The garbage collector. Uncle Bob. It doesn’t matter who: anyone outside your field, anyone who’s strange to the problem — anyone who “doesn’t know the rules” will do.

Regular people — nonexperts — don’t have enough experience to know where to draw boundaries: they’re unaware of limitations or “how things are supposed to work”. In their naïveté, they’ll miss many constraints and assumptions you take for granted — which is exactly the point. These are the people who will most likely spark fresh new ideas for you. They can genuinely think outside the box: for them, there’s no box.

We have a tendency to always go after more specialized people for getting help in our problems — and that works in many cases. But for creative endeavors, perhaps all you need is someone who knows less.

The great news is that there is no shortage of nonexperts around you. Everyone is a nonexpert at most things. All you need is to know how to tap into their non-expertise in the area you need help. Here are 3 tips to help.

1. Meet Different Kinds of People — Lots of Them!

To build a solid network of idea-generating friends, first and foremost you need to strive for diversity.

It doesn’t matter if you have 500 peers to draw ideas from if everybody else’s mind is the same: it’s not a matter of how many people you know, it’s how many kinds.

Resist the temptation to seek advice only from people who think alike: it’s comfortable, I know, but it hinders you from fully expanding your mind. Go out and mix with people with diverse interests for a change!

Getting in touch with many different perspectives is guaranteed to keep your creative juices flowing (and as a bonus you become a much more interesting person in the process!).

Find out how different people would tackle your problem. How would a nurse do it? A 5-year-old child? An economist? Your mom?

Never miss the opportunity to have casual conversations with strangers. The butcher, the old lady ahead of you in the line and the ice cream vendor are all sources of potentially useful ideas. Even if you don’t discuss your particular problem directly (which of course may not always be a sensible thing to do), discovering different perspectives about random life subjects is useful in itself to spark new ideas.

2. Seek Out Idea-Oriented People

Having an abundant circle of relationships always comes first, but after striving for quantity, you now need to make sure you have quality relationships too!

There’s a certain breed of people that you’ll always benefit from having around: it’s the kind of thinkers that spark your imagination whenever you talk to them. You know who they are:

  • They love original ideas and use them in their businesses and lives.
  • They are relentlessly curious and pay attention to the world around them.
  • They may be naïve about your business, but are not stupid or ignorant of the things that matter.
  • They have great wits and challenge the absurdity in things.

Make a list of people who you know have those traits and arrange to spend more time with them. Never let too much time pass without staying in touch with them. Discuss your challenges and ask for ideas — or just engage in idle chatting (which also sparks a torrent of ideas in itself).

Having such vibrant people around you is invaluable for your creativity and too fun to miss out.

3. Engage in “Fool Mode” (Assume Everybody’s a Genius)

This is a fun technique I use sometimes. I like to call it “Fool Mode”.

When I’m in “fool mode”, everybody knows the solutions to my problems. Everybody is a genius — except me. In fact, not only do they know the solution I’m looking for, but they may be already giving it away — the only caveat being they’re talking in riddles — so it’s my job to figure it out!

Adopting the fool’s mindset works great because it checks our tendency to kill ideas before giving them at least some thought.

Think about this: When someone presents us an idea we can’t see the use for, our tendency is to dismiss it immediately, labeling it a ‘stupid idea’. Now what if the other person were a well-known genius — like, say, Einstein? Would you not consider paying a little more attention to what he would have to say? Of course you would! It’s in that thinking — trying to force relationships between seemingly unrelated ideas — that your breakthrough idea may lie.

Being in “fool mode” is also fun and teaches important lessons: You open your mind to the world. You temporarily suspend judgment and let go of any intellectual arrogance you may have. You assume everybody has something to contribute — and what you come to realize, of course, is that they do.

In Closing

You shouldn’t expect random people to actually solve a complex problem they don’t know about. But, if you have an open mind and are willing to listen, they can spark off a torrent of fresh new ideas, which may be just enough for you to solve the problem yourself.

So, by all means don’t dismiss experts. They have more experience and can often help you. But don’t forget that the great innovative ideas are usually elsewhere. The solution you’re looking for may be with your neighbor or with weird uncle Bob — you just need to go get it.



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Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die https://litemind.com/made-to-stick/ https://litemind.com/made-to-stick/#comments Fri, 25 Sep 2009 13:55:58 +0000 http://litemind.com/?p=124 Do you ever have the impression that no one takes your ideas seriously? It turns out that all ideas that spread like wildfire share some common principles. Learn how to apply them.

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Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Do you ever have the impression that no one takes your ideas seriously? Why is it so difficult to get our great ideas across while urban legends and conspiracy theories circulate so effortlessly?

It turns out these ideas and stories — the ones that spread like wildfire — all share some identical common principles. That means we can learn and apply these principles to make our own ideas more appealing and successful.

In this posting, Litemind reader Johan Dhaeseleer shares with us a mind map summary of the 2007 bestseller Made to Stick. The book presents the common traits of successful ideas, turning them into a simple formula we can use to make our own ideas stick.

From Great Ideas to Sticky Ideas

What’s the story with ‘sticky ideas’? According to the authors, Chip and Dan Heath, it means that “your ideas are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact — they change your audience’s opinions or behavior”.

If you want people to do something — to actually use — your ideas, it doesn’t matter how great those ideas are: if you can’t get them across effectively, nobody will care about them. As obvious as it is, this is an error creative people make all the time: we care too much about developing our ideas and too little about communicating them effectively.

A Checklist for Successful Ideas

By analyzing numerous case studies, Chip and Dan show us the underlying principles that lead to ‘sticky’ ideas, noting that the more these principles are expressed in an idea, the more likely it is to become successful.

The formula is conveniently summarized by the acronym SUCCES, meaning:

  • Simple: What’s the essential core of the idea?
  • Unexpected: Does the idea grab people’s attention?
  • Concrete: Is the idea clear? Isn’t it abstract?
  • Credible: Will people believe the idea?
  • Emotion: Will people care about the idea?
  • Story: Does the idea inspire people? Will they act on it?

A Quick Example

To understand how the formula works, let’s take a look at one of the case studies in the book: You do know Jared, the 425-pound fast-food dieter, don’t you?

If you live in the US you certainly know about him. For those who don’t, Jared is the central character in one of the most successful ad campaigns of the decade, created for fast-food chain Subway. The ad campaign is about how Jared shed almost 100 pounds (45 kg) in just 3 months by eating mostly at Subway. (You can check the original ad here).

So, how did the ‘Jared’ ad campaign become so immensely successful? Here’s how it fits in Made to Stick‘s SUCCES formula:

  • Simple: Eat sandwiches and lose weight.
  • Unexpected: A guy lost a lot of weight by eating fast food!
  • Concrete: He shows his oversized pants, mentions specific sandwiches.
  • Credible: We can see how a guy who used to wear 60-inch pants and XXXXXXL shirts is now slender.
  • Emotional: We care more about an individual — Jared — than about a faceless person in a crowd.
  • Story: The protagonist overcomes big odds to triumph. He inspires the rest of us to do the same.

If you think about this formula, you’ll see that you can use it to make just about any idea more appealing.

Book Summary

Find below the summary of Made to Stick in mind map format.

The mind map is courtesy of Litemind reader Johan DHaeseleer, and is Johan’s second contribution to our growing gallery. (Make sure you check his previous mind map on Brain Rules — another truly amazing book.)

Made to Stick Book

Get the mind map for Made to Stick:

A Short Digression on Mind Map Formats: Introducing XMind

A while ago, another amazing Litemind reader, Bruno Unna (round of applause, please), recommended the XMind mind mapping application. After playing with it for a while, I was impressed.

XMind is free, open-source, multi-platform, portable and much easier to use than Freemind (not to mention that the resulting mind maps are much more elegant!)

Although my primary mind mapping application of choice continues to be MindManager, XMind now comes as a close second.

I always like to offer open, platform-independent mind maps to readers — that’s why I’ve been including mind maps in Freemind format. If I don’t find any showstoppers, I’ll share them using XMind from now on.

Conclusion

What I enjoy the most about Made to Stick is that Chip and Dan practice what they preach: the book is packed with great stories and examples, so it’s not only very informative but a great and fun read.

That’s probably why it became a successful, ‘sticky’ hit, and has been on many “must read” book lists (like in Jack Covert’s compilation 100 most influential books of all time and many others).

If you’re interested in Made to Stick, you can get more information in the official website or buy it directly from Amazon.com.



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A Whole New Mind https://litemind.com/whole-new-mind/ https://litemind.com/whole-new-mind/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2009 14:33:58 +0000 http://litemind.com/?p=83 The rules of the game are changing: in order to thrive in this new era of abundance of cheap processing capabilities, we must acquire a new set of skills. Although “left brain skills” continue to be useful, they’re not enough anymore.

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A Whole New Mind

“The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind — computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands.”

This starts and sets the tone for the thought-provoking best-seller A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink. In an easy-to-read way, Dan outlines the changes that are underway, as well as how to develop ourselves in order to thrive in this new era.

Half-a-Mind Is Not Enough

A Whole New Mind is based extensively on the classic left/right brain metaphor — and I must say it’s a very useful one in making the point of the book.

In the last few decades, most of the thriving professionals were those who excelled in “left-brain thinking” — information processing, sequential thinking, analysis, logic, organization, numeric ability and attention to detail.

Lately, however, information is getting easier and easier to acquire. Knowledge that was once locked behind hard-to-earn degrees is becoming widely and cheaply available. In this new world, a great deal of the information processing we performed can now be cheaply automated or assigned to high-qualified professionals overseas — for a fraction of the cost.

Although “left brain skills” continue to be useful, they’re not enough anymore. The rules of the game are changing.

Right Brain Rising

In order to thrive in this new era of abundance of cheap processing capabilities, we must acquire a new set of skills. These skills are usually associated with “right brain characteristics”, such as holistic thinking, synthesis, intuition, estimation and emotional literacy. This paragraph from the book sums it up well:

“The capacity to detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new. The ability to empathize with others, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning.”

If this sounds a bit fluffy for you, that’s exactly the point. They only sound like that because we’re too much in the habit of using only our ‘sharp’, left-brain mind. We’ve been using much less brainpower than we can. That’s a luxury we can’t afford anymore.

A Framework for Thriving in This New Era

The good news is that those “right brain skills” are already natural to humans — they only got atrophied.

In the book, Dan groups these skills in six aptitudes, exploring each one of them in detail. And this is what I most enjoy about the book: you can use the six aptitudes as a framework for developing and assessing how your skills measure up.

Here are the six aptitudes:

  1. Design (not just function). Create solutions that go beyond providing the desired utility, but that are enriched with significance and pleasantness.
  2. Story (not just argument). Create compelling narratives, enriching dry facts with emotion.
  3. Symphony (not just focus). Synthesize and put pieces together, combine seemingly unrelated ideas and be able to see the big picture.
  4. Empathy (not just logic). Be in the other guy’s shoes and learn to intuit feelings and read emotions.
  5. Play (not just seriousness). Blur the solid line between work and play and embrace well-being, lightheartedness, laughter, games and humor.
  6. Meaning (not just accumulation). Transcend the quest for material accumulation and pursue more significant desires. Find meaning in life and develop your intuition.

Contrary to what I initially thought, as ‘soft’ as these aptitudes look, you can methodically develop them. At the end of each chapter, Dan proposes exercises and provides additional resources so you can further pursue each one of them.

Downloadable Book Summaries

As I usually do with great books, I summarized it using mind mapping. Mind mapping is, in itself, a ‘whole-brain activity’, so it was particularly fun creating one for this book. Enjoy!

A Whole New Mind Book

Get the mind map for A Whole New Mind:



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How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci https://litemind.com/how-to-think-like-leonardo-da-vinci/ https://litemind.com/how-to-think-like-leonardo-da-vinci/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2008 14:33:20 +0000 http://litemind.com/?p=55 How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci does a superb job of capturing the essence of Leonardo’s genius and laying it out in a practical framewor. Here are the 7 key areas that shaped Leonardo’s genius and which you can use for your own self-improvement.

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How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci - Mind map

In this post, I present a summary of the mind-expanding bestseller How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, along with some thoughts about Leonardo and the book. (To skip directly to the summary, click here.)

Leonardo is my Childhood (and Adulthood) Hero

Since my childhood, I was utterly fascinated by the figure of Leonardo da Vinci and his achievements. It never ceased to puzzle and amaze me how a single person could be a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer.

Fast forward many years, it was when visiting Leonardo’s exhibition in the Milan Science and Technology Museum that I decided to have him as a permanent source of inspiration for life. Being able to get in touch with his mastery of both science and arts captivated me for good.

Leonardo is not only probably the greatest genius ever: he’s the one that most fully embodies the ‘Renaissance Man‘ ideal. Pursuing that ideal means being focused not on excelling on a single knowledge domain, but on having a holistic view of excellence in life. It means much more than just intellectual achievement, it means full realization of human potential in every aspect.

Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (detail)

A Framework for Genius

In How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, author Michael Gelb does a superb job of capturing the essence of Leonardo’s genius and laying it out in a practical framework for self-improvement. Here are the 7 key areas that shaped Leonardo’s genius and which you can use as a framework for your own self-improvement:

  1. Curiosità: An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
  2. Dimostrazione: A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
  3. Sensazione: The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.
  4. Sfumato: A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
  5. Arte/Scienza: The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination. “Whole-brain” thinking.
  6. Corporalitá: The cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
  7. Connessione: A recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. Systems thinking.

In the book there’s a thorough explanation of how each of these seven key areas applies in Leonardo’s life. More importantly, it’s packed with practical advice and dozens of exercises you can start doing immediately to develop your thinking skills in many unconventional ways. For a reference to the exercises, check the free book summary below.

Book Summary

This mind map summary focuses on the practical exercises contained in the book, so it’s intended to be more of a reference you can come back to from time to time than a complete replacement of the book. (If you enjoyed the article 120 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power, you’ll recognize that some of those tips came from this book, but you’ll also find a wealth of new tips which aren’t in that article.)

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci Book

Get the mind map for How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci:

As a side note, I found it rather amusing to summarize this book using mind mapping, since How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci was one the first references I came across when learning about the technique.

Conclusion

About a decade later, after having bought it in 1998, I still use How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci regularly as a reference for inspiration and personal growth. This book ended up becoming one of the most influential for me, solidifying my choice of Leonardo as a role model and presenting a very useful framework that I use for self-development up until today.

…Which made me curious. Do you have one or more role models in life? Who inspires you the most to reach your full potential? Share in the comments!

La Scapigliata (detail)



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Brainwriting is Brainstorming on Steroids https://litemind.com/brainwriting/ https://litemind.com/brainwriting/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2008 12:56:19 +0000 http://litemind.com/?p=53 Wherever you ask, when it comes to group problem-solving, brainstorming is always the default tool of choice. Brainstorming certainly gets all the fame and glory, but is it the most effective tool for groups to generate ideas? Not necessarily. Traditional brainstorming pales in comparison with a technique called Brainwriting. Brainwriting can easily lead to more […]

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Brainwriting

Wherever you ask, when it comes to group problem-solving, brainstorming is always the default tool of choice. Brainstorming certainly gets all the fame and glory, but is it the most effective tool for groups to generate ideas? Not necessarily.

Traditional brainstorming pales in comparison with a technique called Brainwriting. Brainwriting can easily lead to more than double the ideas generated in a typical brainstorming session. Also, it’s not as tricky as brainstorming to work well for you.

The Shortcomings of Brainstorming

Brainstorming is by far the most widely used group idea generation tool. We all know the drill: get together in a room and let the ideas run wild while building on each other’s ideas.

One of the reasons brainstorming is so popular is because of the widespread notion that grouping people together is always more effective than letting participants work in isolation. On a first look that makes sense, but is it really so?

That’s not what some recent research shows. Several studies (notably Diehl and Strobe’s, from 1987 to 1994) tested brainstorming teams extensively and realized that participants working in isolation consistently outperformed participants working in groups, both in quantity and quality of ideas generated.

The fact is that brainstorming, the way it’s carried out, has some fundamental shortcomings that are hard to overcome. Here are the top 3 reasons why brainstorming usually isn’t as effective as you might think:

1. “Blocking”

This is by far the number one deficiency in traditional brainstorming: only one person can speak at a time.

The problem with that lies in the fact that our short-term memory can’t effectively develop new ideas while keeping old ones in active storage. If we can’t announce our ideas because we have to wait for someone else to describe theirs, we will end up judging or editing them — or even forgetting them altogether.

Not surprisingly, this makes all the difference in our idea output. Even when we do get a chance to describe an idea, we may get to offer only one or two comments before someone else breaks in.

The larger the brainstorming group, the bigger the amount of “blocked” participants, and the fewer the ideas produced compared to an equal number of people generating ideas independently.

2. Evaluation Apprehension

This relates to the fact that some group members avoid expressing what they consider to be wild ideas based on how the other members will privately judge them.

“Suspend judgment!”, “Be wild and outrageous!”, “Speak with no fear!”: this is advice that is hard to take when you’re in company of an authority figure, such as the guy who gets to decide how small your annual bonus will be.

Despite the soundness of the advice to let ideas run wild, the truth is that many groups are not mature or prepared enough to follow it. “Maybe my idea” — they think — “will be seen as way off the mark, so why take any chances?”

3. Personality Face Off

Brainstorming sessions can easily become an arena of clashing human personalities. True, diversity is a necessary part of effective brainstorming, but it also makes fertile ground for all sorts of unproductive behavior.

Examples? Overpowering people trying to dominate the session. Passive people speaking the minimum possible to get by unnoticed. Stubborn people getting overprotective about their ideas and not accepting others’. Fearful people being reticent and evasive, and only presenting safe ideas. The list goes on and on.

The bottom line is that personality differences, if not dealt appropriately, can harm more than help problem solving.

Enter Brainwriting

If brainstorming groups are usually outperformed by individuals working alone, should we quit forming brainstorming groups then? Or is there a way to brainstorm together while sidestepping those fundamental shortcomings? Time to meet the Brainwriting technique.

As in traditional brainstorming, in Brainwriting everyone sits at a table together to simultaneously tackle a problem. The difference is that in Brainwriting each participant thinks and records ideas individually, without any verbal interaction. As we’ll see, this small change results in a fundamental difference in the idea generation effectiveness.

Here are the steps in a typical Brainwriting session:

  1. Participants sit around a table and each one gets a sheet of paper with the same problem statement written at the top. Just like in traditional brainstorming, you also need a moderator for the session.
  2. At the moderator’s signal, each participant has 3 minutes to write down 3 ideas on the sheet of paper. Just like in traditional brainstorming, the ideas should always go unedited. The difference is that now they are being recorded in private. The number of ideas and duration can vary, but I found that “three ideas every three minutes” works particularly well.
  3. When time is up (or when everybody’s done), each participant passes the sheet of paper to the participant to the left.
  4. Each participant now reads the ideas that were previously written and a new three-minute round starts. Each participant must again come up with three new ideas. Participants are free to use the ideas already on the sheet as triggers — or to ignore them altogether.
  5. Lather, rinse, repeat. The group can agree to stop after a fixed number of rounds (such as when sheets come to a full turn around the table) or when participants feel that contributions are exhausted.
  6. After the idea-gathering phase is completed, the ideas are read, discussed and consolidated with the help of the moderator, just like in traditional brainstorming.

So, what does this small change of having the ideas written, instead of spoken accomplish?

  • The amount of ideas generated can be amazing. Since ideas are generated simultaneously, participants never get to block each other. With everyone generating 3 ideas every 3 minutes, a group of 5 people is able to produce 100 ideas in 20 minutes.
  • Participants still get to cross-pollinate and build on each other’s ideas. That is, they still get the benefits of brainstorming in a group, while avoiding its main shortcomings.
  • Ideas are recorded the moment you get them: no ideas are lost while you wait for a chance to speak.
  • No one gets overshadowed and everybody contributes equally, regardless of personality type or personal agenda.
  • Ideas are contributed in private. In less mature environments, there’s no fear of being openly judged by other participants. The ideas can be kept anonymous and participants have freedom to be truly wild with their ideas.
  • Everyone’s given a clear task: to fulfill a specific idea quota in a specific time frame. The quota adds an element of healthy pressure that can help unlock your creativity, as it can be seen as a fun challenge.

Closing Thoughts

To be fair, there are ways to make traditional brainstorming work better (that may be the theme for a future article). However, using Brainwriting is always my preferred choice, as it often generates many more ideas and it’s way easier to get it right.

Here are some additional recommended resources on Brainwriting:

  1. Mycoted Brainwriting Page: The Mycoted wiki is an amazing online resource of creativity techniques (make sure to check their index page). The Brainwriting page has several interesting variations of the technique. Highly recommended.
  2. Michael Michalko’s book Cracking Creativity. An impressive resource. It has a great wealth of thinking and creativity techniques, including Brainwriting. Michalko’s book always tops my recommendations of books on creativity.
  3. MindMeister online mind mapping tool. MindMeister is the best tool I found so far for web-based, real-time, collaborative mind mapping. Even though it wasn’t specifically designed to support Brainwriting, it works very well for that purpose.

Also, to make sure you don’t miss complementary content, such as templates for Brainwriting and idea-generation in general, sign up for the free Litemind Newsletter.

Over to you now: share your experiences with brainstorming and Brainwriting. Have you ever faced the problems I described with brainstorming? Have you tried Brainwriting? If you have any experience with specific online thinking tools (designed for Brainwriting or not), sharing your experiences here would be invaluable. Thanks!



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The Medici Effect https://litemind.com/medici-effect/ https://litemind.com/medici-effect/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2008 11:53:09 +0000 http://litemind.com/?p=48 In The Medici Effect, author Frans Johansson explores one simple yet profound insight about innovation: in the intersection of different fields, disciplines and cultures, there’s an abundance of extraordinary new ideas to be explored. Click and check the full book summary.

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The Medici Effect - Mind Map

In this post, I present a mind map of the book The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures, along with a quick review of the book (to skip directly to the mind map, click here).

Step Into the Intersection

In The Medici Effect, author Frans Johansson explores one simple yet profound insight about innovation: in the intersection of different fields, disciplines and cultures, there’s an abundance of extraordinary new ideas to be explored.

Putting together ideas from different areas — ideas that were always seen as completely apart — can easily generate an explosion of new ideas. And since the best way to have great ideas is to have lots of ideas, the best chances for innovation are at those intersections.

The book makes a case for learning broadly and the importance of keeping a curious attitude. This comes as an inspiring invitation to explore other areas than our own and as a reminder to always pursue our ‘side’ interests.

Johansson shares many interesting stories of cross-pollination between disciplines, as he does in his blog. Ecologists helping logistics experts to plan truck routes more efficiently, or astronomers unintentionally unraveling old ecology mysteries: the intersections are literally everywhere.

Idea Generation and Execution

What I really like about this book is that it doesn’t focus solely on the dynamics of generating innovative ideas: it goes on to discuss the implementation of ideas. All of us have great ideas every now and then. However, a great idea alone is never enough for true innovation: the bottleneck for innovation usually lies in executing your ideas.

And that is largely because there are many psychological barriers associated with pursuing novel ideas: fear of failure, social rejection, or risking one’s reputation — just to mention a few. Discussing these barriers and giving tips to overcome them makes the book even more practical and useful.

Interested? Get It All for Free.

Great news: Nicely for us, author Frans Johansson made the full book available as a free download in his website. If you don’t mind reading on the computer screen, you can’t miss the opportunity to read a great book for free.

As for the book summary, here it is in three flavors:

The Medici Effect Book

Get the mind map for The Medici Effect:

Next Book, Please?

I usually get positive feedback for the book summaries I present here, so I will keep posting them. I have some books in my reading queue and since I’m not quite sure what to read next, I figured I should ask my readers.

Let me know what to read next by taking the poll below. These are the books I currently have in my reading queue — let’s hope they’re good enough to deserve a summary: if you have another suggestion, please let me know in the comments and I could maybe add it to my next Amazon shipment. Thanks!

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

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Creative Problem Solving with SCAMPER https://litemind.com/scamper/ https://litemind.com/scamper/#comments Mon, 02 Jun 2008 20:25:27 +0000 http://litemind.com/?p=44 SCAMPER is a technique you can use to spark your creativity and help you overcome any challenge you may be facing. Click for a complete SCAMPER primer, along with two free creativity-boosting resources.

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Creative Problem Solving with SCAMPER

SCAMPER is a technique you can use to spark your creativity and help you overcome any challenge you may be facing. In essence, SCAMPER is a general-purpose checklist with idea-spurring questions — which is both easy to use and surprisingly powerful. It was created by Bob Eberle in the early 70s, and it definitely stood the test of time.

In this posting, I present a complete SCAMPER primer, along with two free creativity-boosting resources: a downloadable reference mind map and an online tool that generates random questions to get you out of a rut whenever you need.

SCAMPER Primer

SCAMPER is based on the notion that everything new is a modification of something that already exists. Each letter in the acronym represents a different way you can play with the characteristics of what is challenging you to trigger new ideas:

  • S = Substitute
  • C = Combine
  • A = Adapt
  • M = Magnify
  • P = Put to Other Uses
  • E = Eliminate (or Minify)
  • R = Rearrange (or Reverse)

To use the SCAMPER technique, first state the problem you’d like to solve or the idea you’d like to develop. It can be anything: a challenge in your personal life or business; or maybe a product, service or process you want to improve. After pinpointing the challenge, it’s then a matter of asking questions about it using the SCAMPER checklist to guide you.

Consider, for instance, the problem "How can I increase sales in my business?"

Following the SCAMPER recipe, here are a few questions you could ask:

  • S (Substitute): "What can I substitute in my selling process?"
  • C (Combine): "How can I combine selling with other activities?"
  • A (Adapt): "What can I adapt or copy from someone else’s selling process?"
  • M (Magnify): "What can I magnify or put more emphasis on when selling?"
  • P (Put to Other Uses): "How can I put my selling to other uses?"
  • E (Eliminate): "What can I eliminate or simplify in my selling process?"
  • R (Rearrange): "How can I change, reorder or reverse the way I sell?"

These questions force you to think differently about your problem and eventually come up with innovative solutions.

A classic example is MacDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. In hindsight, it’s easy to identify many of the ideas he used through the SCAMPER lens: selling restaurants and real estate instead of simply hamburgers [P = Put to other uses]; having customers pay before they eat [R=Rearrange]; letting customers serve themselves, avoiding the use of waiters [E=Eliminate] — just to mention a few.

SCAMPER Reference

You will find below a comprehensive help guide to using SCAMPER. There are more than 60 questions that can be asked, along with almost 200 words and expressions you can create associations with.

SubstituteSubstitute

Think about replacing part of the problem, product or process with something else. By looking for replacements you can often come up with new ideas. You can change things, places, procedures, people, ideas, and even emotions.

Helper Questions

  • Can I replace or change any parts?
  • Can I replace someone involved?
  • Can the rules be changed?
  • Can I use other ingredients or materials?
  • Can I use other processes or procedures?
  • Can I change its shape?
  • Can I change its color, roughness, sound or smell?
  • What if I change its name?
  • Can I substitute one part for another?
  • Can I use this idea in a different place?
  • Can I change my feelings or attitude towards it?

Trigger Words

alternate, colorize, exchange, fill in for, locum, proxy, relieve, rename, repackage, replace, reposition, reserve, shape, stand in for, surrogate, swap, switch, take the place of

SubstituteCombine

Think about combining two or more parts of your problem to create a different product or process or to enhance their synergy. A great deal of creative thinking involves combining previously unrelated ideas, goods, or services to create something new.

Helper Questions

  • What ideas or parts can be combined?
  • Can I combine or recombine its parts’ purposes?
  • Can I combine or merge it with other objects?
  • What can be combined to maximize the number of uses?
  • What materials could be combined?
  • Can I combine different talents to improve it?

Trigger Words

amalgamate, become one, blend, bring together, coalesce, come together, commingle, conjoin, fuse, intermix, join, link, merge, mingle, mix, package, relate, unite

AdaptAdapt

Think about adapting an existing idea to solve your problem. The solution of your problem is probably out there already. Bear in mind that all new ideas or inventions are borrowed to some degree.

Helper Questions

  • What else is like it?
  • Is there something similar to it, but in a different context?
  • Does the past offer any lessons with similar ideas?
  • What other ideas does it suggest?
  • What could I copy, borrow or steal?
  • Whom could I emulate?
  • What ideas could I incorporate?
  • What processes can be adapted?
  • What different contexts can I put my concept in?
  • What ideas outside my field can I incorporate?

Trigger Words

acclimatize, adapt oneself, adapt, adjust, alter, amend, become accustomed, bend, change, conform, contextualize, copy, emulate, familiarize, find your feet, fit, get a feel for, get used to, incorporate, make suitable, match, modify, readjust, refashion, revise, rework, settle in, transform, vary

MagnifyMagnify

Think about ways to magnify or exaggerate your idea. Magnifying your idea or parts of it may increase its perceived value or give you new insights about what components are most important.

Helper Questions

  • What can be magnified or made larger?
  • What can be exaggerated or overstated?
  • What can be made higher, bigger or stronger?
  • Can I increase its frequency?
  • What can be duplicated? Can I make multiple copies?
  • Can I add extra features or somehow add extra value?

Trigger Words

amplify, augment, boost, enlarge, expand, extend, grow, heighten, increase, intensify, lengthen, make seem more important, multiply, overemphasize, overstress, raise, strenghten, stretch out

Put to Other UsesPut to Other Uses

Think of how you might be able to put your current idea to other uses, or think of what you could reuse from somewhere else in order to solve your own problem. Many times, an idea only becomes great when applied differently than first imagined.

Helper Questions

  • What else can it be used for?
  • Can it be used by people other than those it was originally intended for?
  • How would a child use it? An older person?
  • How would people with different disabilities use it?
  • Are there new ways to use it in its current shape or form?
  • Are there other possible uses if it’s modified?
  • If I knew nothing about it, would I figure out the purpose of this idea?
  • Can I use this idea in other markets or industries?

Trigger Words

abuse, apply, avail yourself of, behave, benefit, bring into play, contextualize, deplete, draw on consume, employ, enjoy, exercise, exhaust, expend, exploit, get through, handle, luxuriate, make use of, manage, manipulate, mistreat, operate, reposition, source, spend, take advantage of, take pleasure in, tap, treat, use up, utilize, waste, wear out, work

EliminateEliminate (or Minify)

Think of what might happen if you eliminated or minimized parts of your idea. Simplify, reduce or eliminate components. Through repeated trimming of ideas, objects, and processes, you can gradually narrow your challenge down to that part or function that is most important.

Helper Questions

  • How can I simplify it?
  • What parts can be removed without altering its function?
  • What’s non-essential or unnecessary?
  • Can the rules be eliminated?
  • What if I made it smaller?
  • What feature can I understate or omit?
  • Should I split it into different parts?
  • Can I compact or make it smaller?

Trigger Words

abolish, control, curb, destroy, disregard, do away with, eradicate, exclude, excrete, expel, exterminate, get rid of, jettison, kill, lessen, limit, liquidate, lower, moderate, modulate, pass, play down, purge, reduce, reject, remove, restraint, restrict, shorten, simplify, temper, throw out, tone down, underemphasize, waste, wipe out

RearrangeRearrange (or Reverse)

Think of what you would do if part of your problem, product or process worked in reverse or were done in a different order.

Helper Questions

  • What other arrangement might be better?
  • Can I interchange components?
  • Are there other patterns, layouts or sequences I can use?
  • Can I transpose cause and effect?
  • Can I change pace or change the schedule of delivery?
  • Can I transpose positives and negatives?
  • Should I turn it around? Up instead of down? Down instead of up?
  • What if I consider it backwards?
  • What if I try doing the exact opposite of what I originally intended?

Trigger Words

adjourn, annul, back up, change the date, change, delay, drive backward, go backward, invalidate, invert, move backward, move, overturn, postpone, put off, quash, readjust, rearrange, relocate, render null and void, reorder, reorganize, repeal, reposition, reschedule, reshuffle, retreat, swap, switch, transpose, turn around, undo, withdraw

(icons by Everaldo Coelho)

SCAMPER Resources

1. SCAMPER Random Question Tool

SCAMPER Random Question Tool

There are many ways to use SCAMPER. For example, you can sequentially go through all the questions in the previous section as fast as you can; or you can stay on each question until you think you exhausted all possibilities.

However, when it comes to creativity, getting random — and unexpected — input can really help your mind find a solution for that ‘impossible’ problem. With that in mind, as a companion to this article, I created the SCAMPER Random Question Tool: it shows you an unexpected question drawn from all the SCAMPER questions in the previous section. Think about a problem that has been nagging you then give the tool a try to see how many options you can generate.

2. SCAMPER Reference Mind Map

SCAMPER Reference Mind Map

I’ve put together all the SCAMPER questions from the previous sections in a mind map, formatted for a single printed page. Think of it as a handy one-page reference you can use whenever you are stuck or just need a kick start to get your creative juices flowing.

3. Thinkertoys Book

Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques at Amazon.com

The best resource I know about SCAMPER is Michael Michalko’s wonderful book Thinkertoys: it has more than 40 pages dedicated to SCAMPER alone. Michael’s book is the most comprehensive creativity reference I have put my hands on: there are more than 40 creativity techniques that should suit every taste — from the most logic to the most intuitive types. Highly recommended!



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Boost Your Brainstorm Effectiveness with the Why Habit https://litemind.com/boost-brainstorm-effectiveness-why-habit/ https://litemind.com/boost-brainstorm-effectiveness-why-habit/#comments Tue, 11 Dec 2007 11:44:40 +0000 http://litemind.com/boost-brainstorm-effectiveness-why-habit/ If you’re stuck trying to find ways to achieve a goal or solve a problem, there’s a quick analysis tool that can put you back in perspective and save you hours of frustrated brainstorming. It’s as effective as it’s simple: all it takes is asking ‘why’… Finding Your Motivation Behind every goal you set or […]

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Boost your Brainstorm Effectiveness with the Why Habit

If you’re stuck trying to find ways to achieve a goal or solve a problem, there’s a quick analysis tool that can put you back in perspective and save you hours of frustrated brainstorming. It’s as effective as it’s simple: all it takes is asking ‘why’…

Finding Your Motivation

Behind every goal you set or every problem you’re working on there’s a motivation. Even though the reasons we’re doing something are usually clear, next time you’re brainstorming solutions for a challenge you’re facing, take a few seconds and deliberately ask yourself:

“Why do I want this?”

Knowing your motivation is the most fundamental step before taking any action; after all, if you don’t know the reason for doing something, why do it in the first place? While this may seem blatantly obvious, the truth is that we often don’t consciously clarify the reasons for our actions beforehand.

Suppose you have the goal “Get more customers to my business”:

“Why do I want to get more customers to my business?”
—”To increase sales” you may say.

Don’t try to be particularly clever about your answer: just give the first and most evident reason. While you may regard “to increase sales” as the most obvious of the possible answers, consciously bringing it to light accomplishes a lot: it gives you a fresh new perspective about your challenge.

That simple answer gives you an entire new dimension of brainstorming possibilities: if what you really want to accomplish is increasing sales, you don’t necessarily need to get more customers — What about making bigger sales each time? What about making your customers return more often?

Focusing too narrowly on a goal or problem without understanding your underlying motivations prevents you from coming up with many creative and effective solutions.

Motivation Comes in Layers

You can extract full benefit from this technique by realizing that your motivations are layered: each motivation is a way to fulfill a higher-level one. To find out upper levels of motivation, all you need is to keep asking ‘why’. In our example, the exercise could unfold like this:

—”Why do I want to get more customers to my business?”
—”To increase sales.”

—”Why do I want to increase sales?”
—”To expand my profits.”

—”Why do I want to increase my profits?”
—”To retire earlier.”

—”Why do I want to retire earlier?”
—”To spend more time with my family.”

Working the motivation ladder in this manner is a great way to find the perspective you’re more comfortable working with. You may be paralyzed about “getting more customers”, but brainstorming ways to “spend more time with family” may be much more appealing to you.

The trick is to find the motivation layer that resonates better with you and then work from there. When you purposefully think in terms of motivations, problems become multidimensional: you can always choose more effective approaches to get unstuck immediately.

More surprisingly, each level of motivation can bring you new insights that may drastically change the direction you approach your goal. In the example above, consider the high-level motivation “to spend more time with my family”: blindly tackling your lower-level motivation of “getting more customers to my business” may force you to spend even more hours at the office — which is the exact opposite of what you really want, isn’t it?

5 Main Benefits of Asking Why

There are many more reasons why considering your motivations can make all the difference in a brainstorming session. Here are just a few:

1. Multiplying your Creative Output

If you were stuck with only one goal to go after, now you have many more to choose from: that means that if you could accomplish it in a hundred different ways, now you can do it in five hundred ways or even more.

2. Bringing a Sense of Purpose

Even if you end up choosing the original challenge you had at hand, you’ll now work on it with a clearer purpose in your mind. This may give you just that extra enthusiasm boost that you need.

3. Spotting Misalignments

Just like in the example of discovering that ‘getting more customers’ really meant ‘spending more time with family’, you may find that a lower-level goal is misaligned or conflicting with a higher-level motivation. In this case, simply drop your lower-level goal and approach your objective from a higher-level one instead.

4. Finding broader solutions

Brainstorming at higher levels of abstraction can give you solutions that encompass multiple areas of your life and address many issues in a single blow.

5. Uncovering Personal Values and Mission

If you keep climbing the ‘why ladder’ as high as you can, you’ll notice that soon enough you’ll inescapably uncover your core personal values — and ultimately your life mission. This is an extremely simple and practical “bottom-up” approach to understanding what really matters to you.

It’s a Habit

We’re so used to just spitting out solutions to problems that, more often than not, we just get into auto-pilot mode — forgetting to connect with our underlying motivations. But asking ‘why’ is nothing more than a habit. In fact, it’s so simple and effective that all you need to do is to just get started.



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Tackle Any Issue With a List of 100 https://litemind.com/tackle-any-issue-with-a-list-of-100/ https://litemind.com/tackle-any-issue-with-a-list-of-100/#comments Tue, 06 Nov 2007 11:04:38 +0000 http://litemind.com/tackle-any-issue-with-a-list-of-100/ The List of 100 is a powerful technique you can use to generate ideas, clarify your thoughts, uncover hidden problems or get solutions to any specific questions you’re interested in. The technique is very simple in principle: state your issue or question in the top of a blank sheet of paper and come up with […]

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Lists of 100

The List of 100 is a powerful technique you can use to generate ideas, clarify your thoughts, uncover hidden problems or get solutions to any specific questions you’re interested in.

The technique is very simple in principle: state your issue or question in the top of a blank sheet of paper and come up with a list of one hundred answers or solutions about it. “100 Ways to Generate Income”, “100 Ways to be More Creative” or “100 Ways to Improve my Relationships” are some examples.

One hundred entries? Isn’t that way too many?”

Bear with me: it’s exactly this exaggeration that makes the technique powerful.

When starting your list you may believe that there’s no way to get it done. But then, at some point during the exercise, you will naturally have your subconscious mind naturally engaged in the process. That’s when you will uncover many new and surprising answers, and ideas will start flowing again. Making a List of 100 is a beautifully articulated cooperation between the conscious and subconscious minds tackling one single problem.

Unlike the related Idea Quota tool — whose primary goal is to acquire the habit of coming up with ideas — the goal of a List of 100 is to take your mind by surprise. While both techniques are based on the concept of getting good ideas from lots of ideas, the ideas generated by each method are usually different in kind. With the Idea Quota you tend to have more elaborate ideas, because you have time to incubate them throughout the day (often without being aware of it). With a List of 100 you tend to get more unexpected ideas, because you catch your subconscious off guard, not giving it any time for its behind-the-scenes editing.

Ground Rules

There are only two simple principles to keep in mind when making Lists of 100:

1. Do it at one sitting

This is the one crucial element for the technique to work. If you end up doing your hundred entries, though over many sessions, you’ll defeat the point of the technique. Before starting your list, make yourself comfortable and try to block all potential interruptions.

2. Eliminate distractions

Just like most brainstorming techniques, you should strive to eliminate all activities unrelated to idea generation during the brainstorming session. Just focus on getting the ideas out of your head as quickly as possible following these rules:

  • Don’t judge or evaluate ideas; you’ll review them later.
  • Don’t write complete words or sentences if that slows you down.
  • Don’t stop to wonder how far in the list you are; number the lines from 1 to 100 in advance or use numbered lists if you’re using a word processor.
  • Don’t worry too much about repeating entries; duplicates can shed light on your patterns of thought.

The Dynamics of Making Lists of 100

To understand why creating a List of 100 works, consider what happens during the process of making one. There are three distinct phases you will usually go through when making your list:

1. First 30 entries or so: where you escape circular thinking

The first items are the easiest to come up with. In this first phase, your conscious mind is still in charge and you’ll most probably just dump ideas you’re already familiar with.

2. Next 40 entries: where patterns emerge

In this phase you’ll start noticing recurring themes and patterns of thought. Phase two is usually the hardest one, as you may find it difficult to let go of the ideas you had in the first phase in order to come up with new, distinct ones.

Bear in mind that it’s exactly this struggle that enables you to get to the third and most fruitful phase, hence the importance of not giving up at this point.

3. Last 30 entries: where the gems are

At this point you will already have exhausted most “logical” answers, allowing your subconscious mind to express itself more freely. Don’t be surprised if you get at least one or two really nonsensical or seemingly illogical entries. You may feel tempted to not write them down (“How on earth did I think that?”). Write them down anyway: these wacky entries may sound far from profound, but it’s exactly those items you’re after.

Also, after coming up with so many entries, it’s not rare to experience a shift in perspective: items that you first felt as being awkward will seem to better fit now than when you started the list. Moreover, your whole attitude towards the problem can change as you develop your entries: you may even come to the conclusion that you should be dealing with a different list topic altogether.

Applications of Lists of 100

Although I have known a variation of the List of 100 technique for several years (thanks to Michael Gelb’s How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci), it was only recently that I realized the technique’s full potential by reading Kathleen Adams’s Journal to the Self: 22 Paths to Personal Growth. This is an excellent book that has many great journaling techniques — and the List of 100 has its own chapter.

Journal to the Self: 22 Paths to Personal Growth

The List of 100 technique can be used for a lot more than solving specific problems; it is a general-purpose personal development tool that can help increase your self-knowledge, motivate yourself, and much more. To illustrate its myriad of uses, find below a List of 100 Lists of 100. The list was mostly taken from Journal to the Self, and slightly adapted with some of my own ideas.

100 Things to Write a List of 100 About

  1. 100 Things I’m Grateful For
  2. 100 Ways I Could Nurture Myself
  3. 100 Ways I Sabotage Myself
  4. 100 Things I’m Good At
  5. 100 Things I Like About Myself
  6. 100 Questions I Want Answers
  7. 100 Ways To Improve My Life
  8. 100 Things I’ve Accomplished In My Life
  9. 100 Things I’m Feeling Stressed About
  10. 100 Things I’d Do If I Had Time
  11. 100 Things I Need Or Want To Do
  12. 100 Things I Want To Accomplish In The Next X Months
  13. 100 Things To Do Before I Die
  14. 100 Things That Are Going Right
  15. 100 Things That Are Going Wrong
  16. 100 Reasons I Want To Stay Married/Committed
  17. 100 Reasons I Don’t Want To Stay Married/Committed
  18. 100 Things I Want In A Partner/Relationship
  19. 100 Things I Have To Offer To A Partner/Relationship
  20. 100 Fears I Am Having Right Now
  21. 100 Things That Once Scared Me But Don’t Anymore
  22. 100 Reasons To Save Money
  23. 100 Things I Miss
  24. 100 Sacrifices I Have Made
  25. 100 Marketing Ideas For My Business
  26. 100 Ways I Can Make Money
  27. 100 Ways To Make A Difference
  28. 100 Jobs/Careers I’d Like To Have
  29. 100 Fears About Being A Multimillionaire
  30. 100 Things I Believe In
  31. 100 Achievements (Qualities) I Am Proud Of
  32. 100 Things I Value In Life
  33. 100 Ways I Help Others
  34. 100 Things That Turn Me On
  35. 100 Things That Turn Me Off
  36. 100 Judgments I Make
  37. 100 Things I Find Hard To Share
  38. 100 Things I’m Disappointed About
  39. 100 Things I’m Angry About
  40. 100 Things I’m Sad About
  41. 100 Things [Peoples, Places] I Love
  42. 100 Things To Do When I’m Depressed
  43. 100 Things To Do When I’m Alone
  44. 100 Rules I Have Broken
  45. 100 Skills I Have
  46. 100 Feelings I Am Having Right Now
  47. 100 Childhood Memories
  48. 100 Things My Parents Used To Say To Me
  49. 100 Ways In Which I’m Generous
  50. 100 Ways To Be More Productive
  51. 100 Things I Hate
  52. 100 Things I Want
  53. 100 Places I’d Like To Visit
  54. 100 Things I’d Like Someone To Tell Me
  55. 100 Things I’d Like To Hear
  56. 100 Things I’d Like To Tell My Child
  57. 100 Things I Want My Child To Know About Me
  58. 100 Reasons To Have A Baby
  59. 100 Reasons Not To Have A Baby
  60. 100 Adjectives Describing Myself
  61. 100 Decisions Other Have Made For Me
  62. 100 Decisions I Made That Turned Out Well
  63. 100 Things I’d Do If I Had Six Months To Live
  64. 100 Expectations Other Have Of Me
  65. 100 Expectations I Have Of Myself
  66. 100 Judgments I Haven’t Released
  67. 100 Ways To Be More Creative
  68. 100 Things I Could Carry In My Pocket
  69. 100 Things I’d Save If My House Were On Fire
  70. 100 Things I Want To Tell My Mother [Father]
  71. 100 Things I’d Never Tell My Mother [Father]
  72. 100 Financial Fears
  73. 100 Excuses I Make For Myself
  74. 100 Things I Need/Want To Control
  75. 100 Fears I Have About Giving Up Control
  76. 100 Answered Prayers
  77. 100 People I’d Like To Meet
  78. 100 Reasons Why I Get Jealous
  79. 100 People I Admire
  80. 100 Tasks I’ve Been Procrastinating
  81. 100 Memories From My Past
  82. 100 Things That Nourish Me
  83. 100 Things I Haven’t Finished
  84. 100 Things I’m Glad I’ve Done
  85. 100 Things I’ll Never Do Again
  86. 100 Ways To Generate Income
  87. 100 Principles To Live By
  88. 100 People I Want To Forgive
  89. 100 People I Want To Forgive Me
  90. 100 Things To Forgive Myself For
  91. 100 Mistakes I Have Made
  92. 100 Lessons I Have Learned
  93. 100 Ways To Be Healthier
  94. 100 Things That Make Me Cry
  95. 100 Things That Make Me Laugh
  96. 100 Things I’d Delegate
  97. 100 Thing I Want For My Birthday
  98. 100 Possessions I’m Tired Of Owning
  99. 100 Responsibilities That I’d Like To Avoid
  100. 100 Things To Write A List Of 100 About


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