Oct 262013

Unleash your Raw creativity

raw creativity of children

Credits: http://bit.ly/XgMtDN

Michael Michalko’s book: Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques is so chock full of ideas on creativity, that once again, today’s post on “raw creativity” is inspired by the book.

Read this paragraph and unless you have done this experiment before, prepared to be astonished:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and

you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

This shows that we all have a raw natural talent to interpret the essences of things. We make sense out of these jumbled letters because we immediately see the essence. This raw talent is why we are all creative as children. A box could be a fort, a car, a house, something to draw on and even a spaceship. When we are kids , our imaginations is not structured or restrained by rules, constraints of logic or risk of embarrassment. We did not strive to eliminate possibilities – we strove to expand them.

As we grow older and start making sense of the world that surrounds us or become expert in our fields, our brains become a blessing and a curse. A blessing because we can quickly grasp the complexity of our surroundings, understand how things connect together logically, and become adept at sensing and trimming the nonsensical ideas. Yet, it’s a curse because, by piling up constraints/structures and filtering out early ideas for the reason that they don’t directly abide by some logical rules, we end up with non-innovative ideas/solutions whose best redeeming value is that they conform to the mold that we wanted to escape.

Raw creative-thinking techniques are designed to remove the constraints of logic and free your imagination to be creative again. Pablo Picasso famously said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”. The value of learning “raw” creative techniques is to do just that – to learn how to think like a child again.


My favorite exercise to flex your raw creativity: synthesis

The book then goes on to describe 12+ exercises to help free imaginations to create innovative ideas. However, it would take too long to summarize all of them here. Here’s one of my favorite exercises called one + one = one(synthesis):

When one drop of water is added to another drop, they make only one drop not two. That’s how 2 completely different concepts can collide to form a brand new one. Consider the following examples: “home page”, “conference call”, and “race card”.


Much of creative thinking involves combining previously unrelated ideas, goods or services and turning them into something new. The process of combining ideas or elements or part of ideas is called synthesis.

The author coined the evocative “ideas having sex” phrase to describe this activity

For this exercise ask participants to think of a name of an object that begins with the same letter as their last name. Write the name on a sticky note and post it on their forehand  and have the participants mingle around the room and combine their object with someone else’s in the room to create something new. For example:

  • Deck + Legos:  A put-in-together adjustable wooden deck that can be dismantled and stored
  • Desk + Treadmill: A treadmill desk. You can walk at one-mph pace while you work at your computer, guaranteeing weight loss without dieting. BTW, the concept has been implemented successfully
  • Stove + Bicycle:  Portable kitchen. While in France this year, I saw a cooking TV show whose premise is to approach shoppers coming out of Parisian marchés (open-air markets) and offer them to prepare a great meal with whatever they were carrying in their grocery bags. The cooking was done on, you guessed it, a basic 2-burner stove, setup on tricycle. The show is aptly named: Street Cuisine.
  • Tape + Glue: Scotch Tape (a true inventor classic)
  • Ballot + Lottery: Encourage people to vote by having a lottery for voters. This too was implemented
  • Shark + Spaceship: The movie Alien as suggested in the recent post: Metaphorical Thinking
  • Etc…

For more exercise, do buy/read the book.

If you have young kids, watch them playing or better yet play alongside with them.

They might teach you a few things you forgot about the powers and pleasures of raw creativity!

Mar 272013

Mind Pumping: “Pumping” it’s not for muscle only…

Mind Pumping

Credit: http://bit.ly/ZqC9Wg

I started rereading Michael Michalko’s book: Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking techniques, as a source of inspiration for a post for this blog. This book is so amazingly rich on ideas and techniques on creative thinking, it’s absolutely dizzying. It seems that any 1/2 page would be enough material for a good LighBulbBite.

But since I had to choose, I’d like to try to summarize chapter two, titled Mind Pumping.

The author’s premise for mind pumping, is that if you want to be creative, it’s not enough to have the intention of being creative, you must act like a creative person by going through the motion of an “idea person“.

9 great Mind Pumping exercises

  1. Idea quota: Set yourself an idea quota for a challenge that you are working on; say 5 ideas, every day for one week. Having a quota forces you to actively generate ideas rather than waiting for ideas to occur to you
  2. Getting tone: Really paying attention to the world around you will help you develop the extraordinary capacity to look at mundane things and see the miraculous
  3. Dukes of habit: Instead of always doing the things the same way, deliberately program changes into your daily life: take a different route to work, listen to a different radio station each day (different newspaper), change your reading habit (fiction vs. nonfiction), switch hobby, etc…
  4. Feeding your head: To quote Gore Vidal, “The Brain that doesn’t feed itself, eats itself”. So, read to feed your mind but:
    • Select carefully: how good an exercise for my creative mind will this provide?
    • Take notes
    • Read biographies: there are a treasure-house of ideas
    • Read how-to books on any subject
    • Read magazines on varied subjects
    • Read nonfiction: when reading nonfiction books, practice thinking up solutions to any problems presented in the book. JFK’s favorite exercise.
    • Think: think as you read and find connections/parallels between what you read and your problems
  5. Content analysis: observe the world around you (popular culture, your job, places where you travel, local/international news, conferences, etc…) and analyze what you see/absorb, look for connections, trends and patterns, and seek new opportunities/ideas out of your analysis.
  6. Brainbanks: collect and store ideas/thoughts like a pack rat: quotes, designs, ideas, questions, pictures, and words that might trigger ideas by associations. (I personally use Evernote for that very purpose).
  7. Travel Junkie: whenever you are feeling stale/bored, go to new store, trade/craft show, exhibition, library, museum, etc… Wander with an open mind and wait for something to catch your attention and connect it to your problems/challenges
  8. Think right: make your thinking more fluent (number of ideas) and more flexible (more creative).
    • Making lists is a powerful way to increase fluency. Example: list all the possible uses of WD40
    • Flexibility in thought means the ability to see beyond the ordinary/conventional. Be more improvisational and intuitive by focusing on processes rather than outcomes.
  9. Idea log: One of CIA’s favorite techniques for recording information in a written form. This enables the agent to instantly focus on all the ideas, comparisons, interrelationships and data relating to a given problem.

This was one chapter out of 39! Get the book for many more techniques/ideas.

Hopefully, this LBB will give you ideas on how to become more creative.  Don’t try all of them at once but do try some and let me how know how they work out for you.

I invite you to share your thoughts, feedback or your favorite Mind Pumping exercises below in the comment area. Looking forward to reading them!


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