Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
Scott Adams (*1957)
US cartoonist and humourist
Being creative sounds so easy. Many people believe that either you are a genius or you are not. But mostly it is just hard work, which can be facilitated by different methods. We have assembled here a small set of these methods, which can be incorporated in a workshop.
You combine words or parts of words into new verbal creations — a creative and funny way of finding new ideas:
- Make a list of words and terms connected to the topic at hand.
- Combine two words/parts to create a new word!
- Discuss and think what the meaning of this word might be and in what way it could help to solve the problem.
For example words like, international relations, liberalism, politics, member of national assembly, free market, level playing field etc. could be rearranged in combinations like, level relating field, member of international assembly, liberal relation, free assembly etc.
Walt Disney Method
The NLP developer and trainer Robert Dilts adopted the ideas of Walt Disney, who encouraged his employees as well as himself to develop ideas and use their creativity. This method base on the correlation of three roles:
- Dreamer or visionary
The three roles can be taken up by one single person or in teams. There should be three different places, which encourage the respective type of thinking, e.g. a creative corner, an account’s desk etc.
Participants go to the creative corner with a question or problem in mind and develop their visions and ideas. With these ideas they will move to the realist’s place and ask the following questions: What has to be done to realise the idea? What are the efforts and costs of this course of action? Which basics are already in place? Can we test this approach?
After this, the group will move to the critical space where the following questions will be discussed:
What could be improved? What are the chances and what are the risks? What has been overlooked? What do I think about this idea?
The process finishes when all questions are answered. All in all it can be challenging for unpractised participants, especially the requirement of switching roles.
The German founder of the social psychology, Kurt Lewin (1890—1947), invented this simple method to analyse driving and hampering factors in a given situation. Write a central question or term on a piece of paper. Then collect from the participants driving factors on side and hampering factors on the other. Assign a score to each force from weak (1) to strong (5). Thus, you could calculate whether you have the hampering factors overweigh the driving ones or vice/versa.
Stimulus Word Analysis
This is a stimulating approach to find absolute new ways of problem solving. You need just paper and markers (or pens) and follow these four steps:
- Define the challenge as precisely as possible. For example: ‘What would be a liberal solution to improve the life of street vendors?’
- Take five words at random! Let’s say: squirrel, bicycle, chestnut, teapot, computer.
- Analyse each word only in reference to itself! What are its characteristics (positive and negative)? For example, a squirrel collects food, stores it, is quick, looks cute and everybody likes it etc. A bicycle is a piece of sporting equipment, can be stolen easily, keeps the user fit etc.
- Now, build a connection between your stimulus word and its characteristics with your challenge! How can the qualities of a squirrel (being quick, cute, building up a stock etc.) contribute to solve your challenge?
The advantage is that it is almost guaranteed to find new approaches. Everybody is involved and it can be real fun. Nonetheless, you might need quite some time and sometimes it’s hard to find connections.
This method seeks to find solutions by redefining the problem, finding causes and connections of problems. This method is rooted in the idea that a challenge has to be understood as a system. The different constituting elements of that system are correlated. Generally, a solution is found by affecting at least one element in order to reach the desired balance in the system. For this to work, it will require people who have an intimate knowledge of the problem and it will most likely take you about three to four hours to find the right approaches.
- Outline the desired end state!
- Collect, describe and visualise the situation. Identify the constituting elements and the connections to each other.
- Take each element and ask the question: How do you have to change the single element to achieve the desired end state? What other impacts would it have on the system? From this, you will achieve a set of possible paths you might take.
- It is useful to analyse these paths using two criteria:
- To what extent will the change of a specific element contribute to the desired endstate?
- What effort and costs does this approach involve?
The Morphological Box or Zwicky Box, named after its Swiss inventor, the astrophysician Fritz Zwicky (1898—1974), aims at finding all possible solutions. By applying the heuristic principle, complex issues are fragmented into their constituent parts. These are reassembled into an entirely new entity.
After finding the constituent parts you ask: How are the solutions differentiated from each other? All possible differences are put in a matrix next to its component. By combining the differences an ensemble is born. For example, if you want to create a new table — an unprecedented version — you break down the characteristics of a table and write differences next to each.
With that you have all possible combinations. You now could pick the solution you prefer, for example a heart of steel hanging from the ceiling. It’s easy with a table, but for more complex things participants have to be able to identify constituting components.
Furthermore, the high number of possible solutions might be confusing. Bearing this in mind, this method can be used for nearly every challenge.
The SIL method, German acronym for ‘Systematische Integration von Lösungselementen’ (Systematic Integration of Solution Elements) takes the best element of several solutions and puts them together to find the most suitable solution.
After the exact definition of the challenge, each participant works on his or her own solution and presents it. The characteristic of this solution is then discussed in the group. What are the especially innovative or intriguing elements in this idea? These are written up on a board. The same step is repeated for all participants. In the end, you’ll have a board full of the intriguing characteristics of solutions.
Now, you combine the various characteristics to find a new solution. At the end you will have wonderful combinations — and most likely the best possible solution.
This method takes a little while, about two to three hours, and is not suitable for large groups. In this case, you could divide the participants into teams. in order not get too confusing. On the other hand, to ensure a reasonable number of characteristics and thus combinations teams should consist of around six people.