An exercise to train your creative muscles, warm-up for any brainstorm session and strengthen your imagination.
Maybe you already generate loads of ideas on a daily basis. Or perhaps you don’t. Either way, you might be interested in further developing this creative area. New ideas are formed by your associations: you connect and combine different ideas in a way that creates a new idea. I would like to propose an exercise which I believe will help you do that, so feel welcome to give it a try. You will be presented with a challenge and your mission will be to come up with as many ideas as possible. But before I leave you to the actual challenge, let me show you some examples and explain some basic principles.
A colony of ants is trapped on an island. How do they get to the next island?
They dig a very long tunnel.
They grab on to dandelion fluff and fly with the wind.
They set their farts on fire so that they are launched like a rocket.
They form a bridge of ants from one island to the other.
They take a ride on the back of a dolphin.
You get the basic idea. Here is another example:
What could be a possible connection between a bird and a car?
If a bird flies into the car window it might be killed.
If a bird lays an egg you could boil it on a hot car.
The car could function as a birdcage.
You could tie a bird to the dashboard and use it as a horn by squeezing its body.
If you would tie a flock of birds to a car they could lift it.
When it comes to brainstorming new ideas, there are a couple of principles to remember. Let’s go into a few:
Your brain might have the tendency to criticise. That’s perfectly understandable, since most of these ideas make no sense at all. Most ideas that you see in the world around you are already filtered by logic in a way that they do make sense. You don’t see people walking around with a chicken tied to their head, because why would they? In order to think creatively, you have to accept and embrace the part of your mind that doesn’t make sense at all. You need to accept that in the creative world of ideas anything is possible. I am not asking you to reason. I am asking you to come up with new ideas.
Quantity over quality
When thinking of new ideas, you should focus on the quantity of ideas before you focus on the quality. Filtering ideas will come later. You should allow yourself to have a massive amount of ‘worthless ideas’ (which in fact aren’t that worthless) in order to have the one idea you really love. You need to realize that the more ideas you have, the bigger the possibility that you will like an idea. You don’t have to like every idea that you come up with. Just jot the idea down anyway.
Add whatever comes to mind: if you can think of it, it can exist. Whether it is dolphins, fire, birdseed, a couch, a baby or 10 wild pigs. It often helps me to scan my room for objects, shapes and characteristics that add new ideas to my old ones. For example: I will see a clock and notice that it is round. Perhaps there could be something round and turning on the island. Oh! There could be a tornado that lifts all the ants and blows them to the next island. Welcome any strange addition that you haven’t found a connection for yet. If it takes too long to think of a connection to your existing line of thought, simply move on to a next thought.
Once you form an idea, try to come up with different variations on that idea, while building on one main component. For example: What are other ways for the ants to float, to fly? In what other ways could a car kill a bird? It doesn’t matter if your new idea still shows a resemblance to your old idea. Don’t limit yourself by your desire to be original. Simply change small aspects and let your ideas be.
Embrace silliness and fun
Brainstorming should be fun. It is a good sign when you come up with ridiculous ideas that make you chuckle. It just means that you connected two different fields or ideas that form a surprising combination that normally isn’t made. That’s how jokes work. So don’t take yourself too seriously, and have a good time!
3. Creative idea-generation exercise
So let’s give it a try. Below I listed 10 challenges that can serve as a starting point to brainstorm ideas. I recommend you just take one challenge and try to come up with 50 ideas. You can use this exercise as a creative mind training tool, or use it as a warm-up session before your start on your ‘real challenge’.
What could you do with a book?
How can you move a cow from the living room to the top floor?
Why did little red riding hood really bake her grandmother cookies?
What can you do with a blanket?
What is a connection between a shoe and a fish?
What could you use a cardboard box for?
What is a connection between a bed and an apple?
Why does your neighbor only leave the house at night?
What can you do with a tree?
How can you empty a pool?
Practice makes perfect. You can learn to think creatively and to quickly come up with many ideas. The fun part is starting to apply this skill in your everyday life: to solve real life problems or simply to come up with fun ideas. Perhaps you will ask yourself what you can do with old pencils, and figure that you can make a necklace out of them. Or you find a seed on the street and make a hedgehog out of it. You see how many of the creative projects I show on my blog linger on the creative though process I just explained? When you practise this creative process and challenge yourself to come up with new ideas on a regular base, it will become part of your ‘normal thinking’.
Was this helpful? Did it provide you with any new insights?