Creative ideation should be fun!
That’s the message I have been trying to get across to my middle school students the past few weeks, now that we’ve started back at school. This school year has afforded me some opportunities, despite the challenges of COVID. Since a few things got cut from our curriculum, I have been able to stretch out some Computer Science projects and dive deeper into things. This year, my 7th and 8th graders are really taking a deep dive into what creative thinking is all about.
We have a warmup question every day designed specifically to exercise our divergent thinking skills. We have weekly games that teach us more about how creative thinking works. But here’s a theme that’s common among my middle schoolers that is also common among my consulting clients:
They are trying too hard to do it “right.”
They worked so hard to be "right" that they couldn't do anything at all.
And, I get it. As I remarked back in my video essay, “The Creative Conundrum in Schools,” too much of modern students’ effort is directed toward doing things “right.” This mindset persists into the workplace.
In the workplace, it’s important to be “right” in the execution of ideas, but not in the creation and development of the ideas. In fact, trying to be “right” can lead to less creative ideas overall!
How can you be right, when there is no right answer?
The past few weeks, when we have been playing our creativity games, I have had to remind my students over and over again that, “The only way to do this wrong is to try to do it right!”
The SCAMPER Technique
The purpose of the SCAMPER technique is to trigger new ideas. When SCAMPER-ing, you take an idea, and ask:
· What can I substitute about this idea?
· What can I combine with this idea?
· What can I modify about this idea?
· How can this idea be put to another use?
· What can I eliminate within this idea?
· What can I reverse within this idea?
SCAMPER is a fun exercise, just designed to trigger new ideas. My middle school students are so used to trying to do things “right” that they’re caught up in trying to answer every question, detailed and perfectly.
No!!!!! They’re questions to play around with until you have a new idea.
The Magazine Game
This game involves breaking students into groups and giving each group one of two different types of magazines: a colorful, popular magazine (I chose Popular Mechanics), and boring text-based professional journal (I chose a medical journal from the 1930’s). Their task is to use the magazines as inspiration for new products to invent.
The purpose is to see the difference in the number of ideas generated, as having diverse, unique visual stimuli help generate more ideas (and when I do this with groups, the number of ideas generated in the colorful magazine group is usually at least 50% more than the professional journal).
But my students with the medical journal were especially confused. Did they need to invent medical products? What happens if they don’t understand what they read?
“No,” I explained, as I pointed to the words chemistry and bedside, “Here’s the words ‘chemistry,’ and ‘bedside.’” Then, I made a show of making it up as I went along.
“You could invent a chemical that keeps beds cooler in the summer.”
They were trying too hard to do it right, and that prevented them from doing it at all.
This is a practice I see too often in the workplace, too. People try so hard to impress the boss with that awesome idea that they lose the ability to play around in order to find that idea! Creative ideation requires fun, even whimsy. But it doesn't need to be an inborn talent, it can be developed with practice.
Regular practice in creative ideation helps people become better at generating creative ideas. It helps people become “stuck” less often, and helps them become more comfortable with the notion of not knowing what to do.
Learn how to be creative.
Don’t try so hard to be right that you can’t do anything at all.
The book "Activate Your Genius Mode" is all about building your creative mindset. Gain practical, one-page tips to building your creative mindset, one page at a time. Visit the Conjunction Media Store to purchase.
For more tips on how to practice creative skills, to hear more, contact Creative Dave to book a workshop or motivational speech for your school or organization before his roster is full for the year!
And, check out the new, "Activate Your Genius Mode: School Edition," the complete guide to implementing creative practices inside the classroom.
Contact David about speaking or workshopping at your school or business event.