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Creativity Triggers for College Students by Edward Glassman Ph.D.
Edward Glassman : Useful Creativity Triggers While Working Alone

Useful Creativity Triggers While Working Alone

By Edward Glassman, PhD

Use this useful sequence of idea-generating creativity triggers when working alone. Each creativity trigger in this sequence builds on the previous one and reaches into higher levels of creative thinking. Expect amazement and delight at the outcome, an explosion of unique ideas.

Start by listing numerous problem statements. Record these on regular paper if you wish, but I prefer to move around writing on large flip chart paper on an easel or the wall. This movement triggers my creative thinking. Or you may record problem statements on index cards, one idea per card to facilitate sorting. See my book for descriptions of 'How-to' problem statements and 'Idea Card.'

Check the six to ten problem statements that you find most interesting and impacting. From these, choose three quite different problem statements to tackle. Now start using the creativity triggers to generate ideas.

• Non-Evaluative Listing.
Non-evaluatively list ideas for one of the problem statements you chose. After five minutes, include some silly bizarre ideas. When you run out of ideas for one problem statement, start the non-evaluative listing process on another. Work on at least three quite different problem statements.

• Improve Bizarre Trigger-Ideas.
Non-evaluatively list at least fifteen bizarre and absurd ideas to solve a problem statement. Stay really bizarre. No one watches you when you work alone.

Then combine the most bizarre ideas and use the outcome as a creativity trigger to spark a better idea. Use the bizarre ideas ingeniously to trigger useful ideas.

• Weird To The Workable Idea.
Fold a paper sheet into four equal quadrants. Then think weirdly: create a very weird idea. Write it in the first quadrant. Make the idea as exotic and bizarre as possible.

Use the weird idea to trigger a better idea and write it in the second quadrant.

Use the better idea to trigger a practical idea and write it in the third quadrant. Finally, use the practical idea to trigger a workable idea and write it in the fourth quadrant. Turn this idea into a sensible, practical solution.

Repeat as needed. The more bizarre and weird the first idea, the more likely you will produce an unexpected and unusual workable idea, a paradigm shift.

• Idea Gallery.
Write six to eight problem statements that interest you at the top of flip chart paper, one statement per sheet. Attach the papers to the wall for idea gallery.

Walk around the room and write ideas directly on the papers. The ideas that accumulate on the papers will trigger other ideas as you wander around. Such movement often helps creative thinking. Ask other people to contribute. Expect unexpected ideas.

Hang flip chart paper in the hall outside your office. Write one problem statement on the top. Ask each passersby to write ideas on the flip chart paper. Expect great results.

A FORCED-COMBINATION: Take an imaginary trip to Africa or Venus and bring back something absurd to combine with the problem at hand. Also use imaginary objects from Asia or Mars as triggers to spark unexpected ideas.

• Idea Card.
Finally, sit quietly for about 30 to 40 minutes and write one idea per card on 5" x 8" index cards with a dark marker. Stay non-evaluative. Occasionally write absurd, bizarre, exotic ideas and use these to trigger other ideas. Expect many unexpected ideas to emerge. Place the cards on tables, the floor, or pin them to a wall so you can see them all. Sort them. Idea Board described in my book jazzes up idea sorting.

• Combining Logical and Bizarre Ideas.
Combine idea gallery with idea card as I describe in my book. Allot at least 45-60 minutes for this procedure.

In the first 15 minutes, create bizarre and silly ideas only; non-evaluatively list these on paper. In the next 15 minutes, generate only logical solutions that make sense; non-evaluatively list these on 3" x 5" index cards, one idea to a card.

Finally, combine the ideas of the two lists and develop new, unexpected ideas. Expect it to work and it will.

• Other Creativity Triggers.
Insert other creativity triggers into this sequence. Look over the many creativity triggers in my book. Brainwriting circles and clustering work especially well when you work alone. So do metaphors, random word trigger-ideas, and future fantasy.

When you finish generating ideas, convert them into a quality solution: use forced withdrawal and combine ideas into trigger-proposals (step 5 in my book), identify the criteria for a quality solution (step 6), and convert your trigger proposal into a quality solution (step 7). Achieving creative quality solutions adds enjoyment to problem solving.

Apply this sequence of creativity triggers to your life. Clarify a problem that continually recurs in your life, a sure sign you have not clarified it effectively enough to ensure that you focus on the right problem. Use the sequence of creativity triggers described above. Allot enough time so you can do justice to creative thinking. Seize opportunities working alone.

Make action plans to do these things periodically (step 8). •

© 2011 by Edward Glassman. All rights reserved.

Edward Glassman, PhDEdward Glassman, PhD was the President of the Creativity College®, a division of Leadership Consulting Services, Inc., and Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he headed the Program For Team Effectiveness And Creativity. More »