While at EdCampIllinois on Saturday, I attended a session discussing the influence of Seymour Papert on education. During the conversation, Mitch Resnick was mentioned a few times, and his learning spiral was shared with the group. While I’ve been a huge fan of Mitch and his work, I’d never seen that particular image before.
It reminded me of another image that I had earmarked to explore further, focusing on ways to generate ideas. One of my roles at DiscoveryEd was to chair the Innovation and Strategy team. In that capacity, I spent quite a bit of time in the ‘idea generation’ space. It’s also something we’ve used quite a bit at events, internally and externally. I’ve got a plethora of ideation strategies in my back pocket. However, the majority revolve around a gimmick, or a theme. A construct that let’s people get comfortable and unrestricted.
I think this graphic ties in nicely to that first step of Mitch’s. Step 1: Imagine. Just sit back and let your mind wander. When you have 10 minutes for brainstorming on the schedule, it can really limit the depth of what someone can come up with. It almost guarantees that the ideas will stay on the surface. But to really come up with anything fresh or worth delving into, you need to allow yourself to go deeper right from the outset. And to do that, we often need to break out of the routine we’ve set for ourselves.
- Go for a walk – Lodge McCammon is a big advocate for the Walk and Talk, emphasizing that physical activity stimulates the brain. Adam and I did this during our ISTE session on new models of professional development, and the feedback was incredible. Sometimes just being in motion is enough to create the spark you need.
- Speak to strangers – Maybe not total strangers off the street, but certainly people outside your normal sewing circle. It’s a critical step in the design thinking process too, getting feedback from a wide variety of people. Sometimes asking the thoughts of someone who has no background in the topic will get a more ‘out of the box’ response. After all, they can’t be constrained by the status quo, if they don’t know what the status quo is!
- Write down day dreams and ideas – I think this can be broadened a bit to include sketching things down, or even talking them through in a podcast or vodcast. I know that the act of blogging or podcasting definitely helped me solidify ideas that were percolating. It forces you to take ephemeral ideas and try to make them concrete.
- Listen to music – Music can definitely stimulate creativity, but I’d suggest listening to other people’s music! Ask for people to link up there favorite Pandora or Spotify playlist. Listening to lyrics and musical patterns that are fresh and disruptive compared to your usual choices may shift your thinking into a new direction. One of my personal favorites is this funk/blues playlist on Spotify. Enjoy!
- Explore different places and environments – Ever hold a meeting outside? It totally changes the dynamic. Picking up your laptop and working on a park bench, in a coffee shop, or at a train station can certainly provide new stimulus that may generate that elusive spark.
- Embrace alone time and let your mind wander – Sometimes the best way to focus in on a topic is to step away from it. Put away the laptop, silence the phone, and just unfettter your mind. Call it meditation, call it #napchat, just give your brain a break before it hits the breaking point.
The next time you’re going to be starting a project, or your students will be, begin with Step 1: Imagine. And choose a handful of these strategies to get the creative juices flowing!