While The Keys to Creativity: How to unlock your imagination and creative potential by Gary Bertwistle is not specifically aimed at hyper-creatives like designers, it is still worth a read. On initially picking up Gary’s book (I found it on a family members bookshelf while I was at their home), my first impression, after a quick flick, wasn’t particularly positive. Still, I ended up borrowing it from the afore mentioned family member and after a full read I discovered some interesting advice, methodologies and tools inside.
Within The Keys To Creativity, there is much of the same stuff that is being preached by just about everyone else around the world involved in teaching various forms of creativity (IDEO etc…). Gary has covered the standard methodologies of brainstorming, harnessing the power of play, visualise it, use ice breaker activities, get out in the world and observe, and utilise cards (think IDEOesque method cards) to question assumptions.
After you get past all the stock standard stuff we hear pretty regularly on the subject of coming up with ideas and being more creative, you start to get into some of Gary’s more interesting and unique tools and techniques.
We all know that many people, even some designers, have issues with brainstorming. Which is of course why IDEO developed their set of guidelines (defer judgement, quantity over quality etc….). Gary suggests a method that apparently (I haven’t tried it) achieves the same results without the issues often associated with Brainstorming (people talking over each other etc…). Gary calls it Brainwriting.
Brainwriting is a non verbal brainstorming technique that “has proven very successful in smaller workshops of around five or six people”.
1. The group arranges itself into a circle (sitting on the floor or on chairs).
2. Each person gets a blank sheet of paper
3. At the top of the paper they write the issue or problem they are collecting ideas for. The issue needs to be framed “in such a way as. ‘in what ways could we…’”
4. Under the ‘heading’ question each person then writes down “an idea in response to the question”
5. Each person then passes their piece of paper to the right.
6. The next person to get the paper then adds to the last persons idea or adds a new response/idea to the original question.
7. Steps five and six are repeated until the pieces of paper arrive back at their originators. Now there is a whole heap of ideas on the pages to utilise.
The Spiders Web – The spiders web is a structured version of associating words and issues – instead of just writing lists, you draw a spider web (like the one below) and then write your starting point in the middle.
As an example: you might be brainstorming on the topic of coffee. So you write coffee in the centre and then as quickly as possible fill the spider web with related or unrelated thoughts, ideas or individual words until the web is full.
Now you have all these words, thoughts and ideas you can utilise them as a discussion points for your brainstorming session. For a full break down of this technique, grab a copy of the book.
The Spin Cycle – This tool is aimed at slaying assumptions and sacred cows.
1. List the sacred cows or assumptions (eg: all our products must have a consumable).
2. Then apply the following to each sacred cow or assumption in order to break it down and rethink it.
spin it around…
Look for opposites…
Explore alternatives/options to the sacred cow…
think, what if you couldn’t?
As well as some interesting techniques for generating creative responses, Gary has also included a lot of advice you would not normally associate with unleashing or increasing creativity. There is a section in the book on food, one on exercise and another on music.
While many design consultancies hold meetings with plenty of lollies, chocolate and sweets – in Gary’s view this is a big no no. And he goes into some of the food science and health reasons for the importance of having plenty of fruit and healthy snacks in creative sessions instead of junk food.
Gary also delves into why music and exercise plays an extremely important part in getting into the creative and idea generation zone.
The Keys to Creativity: How to unlock your imagination and creative potential is a unique take on creativity and idea generation. It delves into several areas that books such as those produced by IDEO gloss over. The Keys to Creativity: How to unlock your imagination and creative potential is available via Gary’s website.
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