Category Archives: creativity

What isn’t the problem?


Stuck on a project? Ben Malbon at BBH Labs points us to this creativity checklist by none other than the CIA. Apparently analyzing political intelligence requires keen diagnostic skills. This is worth printing out and posting on your wall.

THE PROBLEM
Why is it necessary to solve the problem?
What benefits will you receive by solving the problem?
What is the unknown?
What is it you don’t yet understand?
What is the information you have?
What isn’t the problem?
Is the information sufficient? Or is it insufficient? Or redundant? Or contradictory?
Should you draw a diagram of the problem? A figure?
Where are the boundaries of the problem?
Can you separate the various parts of the problem? Can you write them down? What are the relationships of the parts of the problem? What are the constants of the problem?
Have you seen this problem before?
Have you seen this problem in a slightly different form? Do you know a related problem?
Try to think of a familiar problem having the same or a similar unknown
Suppose you find a problem related to yours that has already been solved. Can you use it? Can you use its method?
Can you restate your problem? How many different ways can you restate it? More general? More specific? Can the rules be changed?
What are the best, worst and most probable cases you can imagine?

THE PLAN
Can you solve the whole problem? Part of the problem?
What would you like the resolution to be? Can you picture it?
How much of the unknown can you determine?
Can you derive something useful from the information you have?
Have you used all the information?
Have you taken into account all essential notions in the problem?
Can you separate the steps in the problem-solving process? Can you determine the correctness of each step?
What creative thinking techniques can you use to generate ideas? How many different techniques?
Can you see the result? How many different kinds of results can you see?
How many different ways have you tried to solve the problem?
What have others done?
Can you intuit the solution? Can you check the result?
What should be done? How should it be done?
Where should it be done?
When should it be done?
Who should do it?
What do you need to do at this time?
Who will be responsible for what?
Can you use this problem to solve some other problem?
What is the unique set of qualities that makes this problem what it is and none other?
What milestones can best mark your progress?
How will you know when you are successful?

Image: Dark Matter

The girl who knew what God looks like

If you care about education then don’t miss this 2006 speech by Ken Robinson. He suggests the Western education system is ill-suited for helping children nurture creativity, and yet in a rapidly shifting world — where today’s schoolchildren will retire in 2065 and we can’t predict the future of 2015 — creativity is the most important skill for humanity’s survival. Plus he’s damn funny.

Via Jim Mitchem.

Learn to speak European


Raw ideas. Found near scratchpads, blogs, whiteboards, water cooler, tweets, talking after two beers with your boss — all ways to float raw ideas in unrefined form. Many people in business are afraid of half-baked concepts. Messages need to be controlled. Approvals orchestrated. Politics managed. Unbound creativity might be embarrassing.

Sure, you’ll make mistakes. But filters block the path to genius.

“Ways to Be Cool” via New Shelton.

Voyeurism, adventurism, and mental stimulation


The willingness to take risks is required in reproduction, evolution, creativity, communication and business. None of us would have left the womb if we’d carefully weighed the odds. So we shouldn’t laugh to hear that some German tourists are now flying absolutely nude on an airline sponsored by travel agency OssiUrlaub.de. It seems there is an entire movement in Germany of free body culture in which clothes are, uh, too confining.

We shouldn’t laugh because our management team is taking a flight ourselves (fully dressed) to get away to a warmer clime for a business planning powwow. A quick scan of Google finds there is an entire consulting-travel industry that facilitates corporate offsites. Yep. Our minds will think deeply on how to steer the economic ship, and we may end up drinking to our future in a big blue pool.

Why do humans long for green fields far away? Why do we surf the web at lunch, watch drivel on TV at midnight, travel to sunny lands to think business, and deep in our hearts know that, in another life, it might be cool to strip bare-assed on a plane? It’s not sex or lunacy. More likely, modern civilization has our brains so wound tight with Twitter-recession-smartphone-Obama-blogging-Bernanke-RSS-iPhone feeds that we all just long to go away. Turning the brain off is a good way to turn the mind back on.