Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Simplified Version of FOLIO


This is a simplified version of FOLIO. It gives a good overview of the tools and what they can do. The chosen example topic for this post is "reading books".

The FOLIO Tools

This blog post will feature all the main FOLIO tools. These tools are:

1) Switch
2) Hindsight Question
3) Mentors (Questions-mentor, Advice-mentor and Creative-mentor).
4) About (Listing Facts)
5) Big Picture
6) Introspection (Psychology)
7) Paper
8) Label and Extract
9) TRIPES

These can be represented with the letters: SHM ABI PLT.

Use of Adjectives 

Throughout this blog post, I'll use random adjectives to help guide the thinking directed by the nine tools. Here's a post about generating a list of adjectives: How to create a list of adjectives quickly.

Tool 1: Switch

The purpose of Switch is to deliberately switch my thinking when I'm thinking about a subject. There are two types of switch, on-topic and off-topic:

On-topic Switch

For an on-topic switch I'll switch my thinking, but stay on the topic. I'm currently thinking about the chosen topic reading books. So an on-topic Switch could be:

Could I get a Kindle?
I could go through my books and sort them out.
I could read more non-fiction.
I could dig out a book right now and read.
I could visit the library.
etc.

Using Random Adjectives, and a Format for an On-topic Switch

(I'll stay on the chosen topic reading books) To do an on-topic switch with an adjective, I pick a  random adjective and use it as a trigger to generate an on-topic switch  that has the characteristic suggested by the adjective. The format is thus:

Make X Switch

Then I choose a random adjective. In this case: historic

I put my random adjective - historic - in the place of the "X" which gives:
 
Make historic switch:

And I ask myself: "What would a historic switch be?" I'll try to interpret that in a few ways to generate the following thinking switches:

Could I read some of the classics?
Could I make a list of the books I enjoyed as a child and pass them on to my children?
What are the all-time best sellers?

More Examples of On-topic Switches:

Make introspective switch: Could I focus on the way I read? (Learn speed reading, etc.)
Make illegal switch: What books have been banned in the past or have been controversial? Could I read them?
Make wise switch: Think about what makes a wise reader. What should my reading priorities be?
Make morbid switch: Have any books been written with a ouija board?
Make specky switch: Do I need to get new glasses?
Make dead switch: What books could I add to my bucket list as possible reads?

Off-topic Switch

For an off-topic switch I'll switch my thinking completely away from the current topic. So, with the topic "reading books" I could end up with something like:

Have some food.
Watch telly.
Go for a run. 

Using Random Adjectives, and a Format for an Off-topic Switch

This is constructed in the same way as the on-topic Switch: I'll pick a random adjective and use it as a trigger to generate an off-topic switch that has the characteristic suggested by the adjective. The format is the same:

Make X Switch.

Then I choose a random adjective: funny.

I put the random adjective - funny - in the place of the "X" which gives:

Make funny switch

and I ask myself "What would a funny switch be?" I'll interpret it in a few ways:

Watch some funny vids on YouTube.
Read some jokes.
Write some jokes.

More Examples of Off-topic Switches:

Make deep switch: Go swimming
Make dear switch: Go shopping
Make clear switch: Tidy out the shed.
Make frightening switch: Do a bungee jump.
Make penitent switch: List mistakes I've made that I regret.

Switching Back to the Topic from an Off-topic Switch

I can utilise an off-topic switch I've generated to see how it could help the original topic (reading books, in this case):

Go swimming: Would help me to read books because I'd be fit and refreshed.
Go shopping: I could go in a book shop.
Tidy out the shed: I could find somewhere to store my books.

Tool 2: Hindsight Question

The purpose of Hindsight Question is to produce more switches in my thinking, but in a different way to the Switch tool. To generate a Hindsight Question I look at the topic (in this case reading books) and ask myself, "What question(s) would've generated the answer 'reading books'?" Examples could be:

What's a good way to educate myself?
What's a leisurely hobby?
What can you do in a library?
What's a necessary part of studying?
What did I like doing as a child?

Then I can pick one and generate alternative answers (thus, alternative focuses). Example:

What's a good way to educate myself?

Possible answers:

Do a course.
Learn online.
Get a private tutor.
Go to night school.
etc.

Tool 3: The Three Mentors: Questions, Advice, and Creative 

With the Mentors tools, I imagine there is a mentor sat with me, in a mentoring role. There are three mentors - the Questions-mentor, the Advice-mentor, and the Creative-mentor.

Questions-mentor

The Questions-mentor asks questions about the topic.So, if reading books is my topic then good questions could be, "Are you reading enough?" or, "What books haven't you read?" There are two approaches I can use: I can create a question intuitively, or use an adjective to help me generate a question.

Creating a Question Intuitively

To generate an intuitive question I simply ask the question, "If a Questions-mentor were sat beside me and they asked a pertinent question, what could that question be?"

So, for the topic reading books examples could be:

Are you happy with your reading material?
What knowledge would you like to acquire?
What's the best way to find new books/subjects to read?
etc.

Creating a Question with an Adjective

I can use a randomly chosen adjective to help me to generate a pertinent question from the Questions-mentor.. For this I use the format:

Make up X question.

Then, I pick a random adjective to put in place of the "X", and use it as a trigger to generate a question that has a characteristic suggested by the adjective. Example:

Make up superlative question: What are your favourite ten books?
Make up coupled question: What sequels could you read?
Make up flexible question: Could you try a new genre?
Make up jaded question: Do you stay fresh during reading/studying by taking regular breaks?

Advice-mentor

The Advice-mentor offers advice about the topic. I imagine a mentor is sat with me offering advice. Good advice about the topic reading books could be, "Join a reading group" or, "Improve your general vocabulary" etc. Like with the Questions-mentor, there are two approaches I can take: I can generate some advice intuitively, or use an adjective to help me generate the advice.

Intuitive Advice

To generate intuitive advice I ask the question, "If an Advice-mentor were sat beside me and they offered some pertinent advice about reading books, what could that advice be?" Examples could be:

Check out your local library.
Check out a list of the current best sellers.
Check out a list of the best sellers in your areas of interest.

Advice Created with an Adjective

As before with the Questions-mentor, I pick a random adjective and use it as a trigger to generate some advice that has a characteristic suggested by the adjective. The format is:

Make up X advice

And I pick a random adjective  to put in place of the "X", then interpret it. Example:

Make up feline advice: Read up about caring for my pet cat.

More Examples of Advice:

Make up measured advice: Log how much you've learned in the past 5/10/15 years.
Make up dual advice: Read the same book as your wife so you can compare notes.
Make up smurfy advice: Find classic children's books for my children.
Make up angst-ridden advice: List your main ten problems in life and find out how they are addressed by any books.
Make up evocative advice: Read through your old journal diaries.
Make up messy advice: Have several books on the go at once.
Make up odd advice: Learn to read books written in Latin.
Make up sick advice: Read up on your ailments.
Make up harmonic advice: Polish up on music theory.
Make up satirical advice: Read some work by the famous satirists.

Creative-mentor (How to...more and more)

The Creative-mentor is a little different.The purpose of the Creative-mentor is to start steering the thinking towards creativity and possibilities. I imagine the mentor sat with me has set me a creative challenge. To create the challenge, I choose a random adjective, then increase the degree of the characteristic suggested by that adjective. The basic format is:

How to make (topic) more and more (random adjective).

With the topic of reading books and the random adjective "stubborn" that gives:

How to make reading books more and more stubborn.

What to make of that? Maybe:

Be determined to read and finish a difficult book.

More examples of Creative-mentor:

Find a way to make readings books...

more and more cliquey: Link up with people reading the same book.
more and more sincere: What's the best way to find books that might interest me?
more and more schoolish: How to relearn everything I've forgotten since leaving school?
more and more legendary: How to be as good at reading as Kim Peek. Or (more plausible) research reading abilities such as those of Kim Peek.
more and more odd: Read standing on your head.
more and more dead: Make reading obsolete by inventing a way to download books to your brain.
more and more essential: Invent a "25 books qualification" where you can be tested on your knowledge of any 25 books.

Bigger and Bigger Challenges

I can also, if I choose to, think about what kind of challenge would come from increasing the degree of the characteristic to an impossible or surreal extent. It's an area for letting the imagination run riot and doing lots of wishful thinking. Example: What would it mean to make reading books more and more funded? Maybe:

Set up a scheme so that nobody has to buy a book again.
People could get paid for reading.

More Examples of Bigger Challenges:

To a fanciful or surreal extent, make reading books...

more and more calm. Ways to express information so that it relaxes the reader as well as informs.
more and more musical. Audio books that sing the words as lyrics to well known songs.
more and more white. Books are black text on a white background. Why not white text on a black background? Would it make a difference?
more and more sporty. Make reading books and memorising them a sport.
more and more underwater. Books that are readable absolutely anywhere.

Tool 4: About (Listing Facts) 

The About tool is used to list information about the topic. Again, adjectives are used here. For the topic reading books the format is:

On the subject of reading books, what is X?

Where the "X" is a random adjective. The random adjective "silent" would give:

On the subject of reading books, what is silent?

And I can come up with a few answers:

Libraries
Listening to books by headphones
The pastime itself.
Etc.

A question based on the adjective "nocturnal" would read:

On the subject of reading books, what is nocturnal?

Possible answers:

People queuing at midnight to buy books such as Harry Potter.
Reading at night.
Books about astronomy.

More Examples of About Tool:

On the subject of reading books...

Q: What's knowledgeable? A: People who read a lot of books.
Q: What's evident? A: The words on paper.
Q: What's watery? A: Ink on the paper.
Q: What's square? A: The shape of the book.
Q: What's hoaxed? A: The Hitler Diaries.
Q: What's odious? A: The burning of books. Some forms of censorship.
Q: What's dark? A: The horror genre.
Q: What's dichotomous? A: Party manifestos.
Q: What's menial? A: "Stuffy" books.

Tool 5: Big Picture

There are three options within Big Picture, all used to dig deeper into motivation. These are ASH: Arrows, Scenarios, and How to (more and more).

A: The Positive and Negative Arrows

The positive and negative arrows are based on the Vertical Arrow Technique,  a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) technique that features in the book Feeling Good, by David Burns. The idea is to dig deeper and deeper into motivations, thoughts and beliefs - both positive and negative ones. There are two types of Arrow approach: Positive arrow, and Negative arrow.

Positive Arrow: Why is that good to me? 

To do the positive arrow, I look at the topic (which can also be a thought, problem, challenge, etc) and I ask, "Why is that good to me?" I answer that question, then apply the question, "Why is that good to me?" again, to the previous answer.. I keep repeating this process, asking "Why is that good to me?" and then answering the question again, digging ever deeper until I'm left with an "final answer" where I think I am unable to dig any deeper.

Example 1:

Reading books...

Q: Why is that good to me?
A: I like new ideas.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: I like to think in new ways.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: It floats my boat.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: It means I enjoy life.

Example 2:

Reading books...

Q: Why is that good to me?
A: I can learn new information.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: I can think differently.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: I like to blitz my assumptions.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: I like making life simpler and easier.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: I like a creative mental challenge.
Q: Why is that good to me?
A: It's fun.

Negative Arrow: Why is that bad to me? 

To do the negative arrow, I look at the topic (which can also be a thought, problem, challenge etc) and I ask, "Why is that bad to me?" Like with the positive arrow above, I answer that question, then apply the question, "Why is that bad to me?" again to the previous answer, continuing the process, asking and answering the question again, digging ever deeper until I'm left with an "final answer" where I think I am unable to dig any deeper.

Example:

Reading books.

Q: Why is that bad to me?
A: It can be hard sometimes to restructure someone else's thoughts so it fits my own thinking model.
Q: Why is that bad to me?
A: It can be stressful.
Q: Why is that bad to me?
A: It's unpleasant.

Scenarios: The Worst That Can Happen, The Best That Can Happen 

Everyone is familiar with asking, "What's the worst that can happen?" and "What's the best that can happen?" I think asking these questions is an important part of seeing the big picture. I also like to get a bit creative when thinking about these scenarios - here I've included the option of putting more imagination into forming the scenarios (again, by using random adjectives).

The Worst-That-Can-Happen

There are two ways here to form the WCH - intuitively, and generated with an adjective.

Intuitive Worst-That-Can-Happen

Here, I'm asking the following question: On the subject of readings books, what's the worst that can happen? Here's some possibilities:

I might not understand it at all.
I might get so lost in reading that I neglect real life.
I might read all of it but then forget it all by the next day!
I might never be able to retain the information.

Using an Adjective to Generate a Worst-That-Can-Happen

Here I'm using the format:

Create X worst-that-can-happen (about reading books).

I insert a random adjective into the position of the "X". The random adjective "normal" gives:

Create normal worst-that-can-happen (about reading books).

What terrible scenarios could occur? Maybe:

Information overload. Meltdown! 
Stress.
Burnout.

More Examples of Worst-That-Can-Happen Scenarios:

Create excluded WCH: I might be the only one who can't understand it.
Create unhygenic WCH: I might catch an awful disease off a library book.
Create fun WCH: I might have so much fun and get so engrossed in the book I neglect other areas of my life.
Create valuable WCH: I might read the book and learn the information only to find the information is now useless, obsolete, or not applicable.
Create bespectacled WCH: My glasses could break and I won't be able to read.

The Best-That-Can-Happen

Like with the worst-that-can-happen, there are two ways to form the best-that-can-happen - intuitively, or with an adjective.

Intuitive Best-That-Can-Happen

Here I'm asking the following question: On the subject of reading books, what's the best that can happen? Here are some possibilities:

I'll be ecstatic about reading..
The information could change my life.
I could find a new author.
I could be inspired to gain a qualification.
I'll retain 100 percent of the information.
The knowledge might help me to tackle other subjects. 

Using an Adjective to Generate a  Best-That-Can-Happen

Here I'm using the format:

Create X best-that-can-happen (about reading books).

I insert a random adjective into the position of the "X". The random adjective "quick" gives:

Create quick best-that-can-happen (about reading books).

What great scenarios could occur? Maybe:

I might learn a new subject quickly.
I might really get engrossed in the reading straight away.
I might find my outlook changes quickly due to learning new information.
I might finish the book in one sitting.
The reading could change my life very quickly.

More Examples of Best-That-Can-Happen Scenarios:

Create far away BCH: I will drift off to another world and feel refreshed after reading.
Create countryside BCH: I might want to take a book everywhere.
Create natural BCH: I'll enjoy the whole process.

H: How to...More and More

This is the same as the "How to...more and more" explained in the Creative-mentor section above.

Tool 6: Introspection (Psychological)

The idea of the Introspection tool is to dig deep into thoughts, feelings, beliefs etc. There are three elements with the Introspection tool, represented by the letters BAH. B is for  BA DAFT. A is for Arrows, and H is for Hypothetical. 

BA DAFT 

BA DAFT stands for: Belief and assumptions, automatic negative thoughts, downsides and benefits (same as pros and cons), automatic positive thoughts, feelings, thoughts. The aim is to list my BA DAFTs about the topic. I imagine there is a mentor-type person with me prompting me to address seven psychological directives about reading books.

The Seven Directives:

1) On the subject of reading books, name one of your beliefs (or assumptions)
2) On the subject of reading books, name one of your automatic negative thoughts.
3) On the subject of reading books, name a downside
4) On the subject of reading books, name a benefit
5) On the subject of reading books, name one of your automatic positive thoughts.
6) On the subject of reading books, name one of your feelings.
7) On the subject of reading books, name one of your thoughts.

Example of Each of the Seven Directives Applied to reading books:

1) On the subject of reading books, name one of your beliefs (or assumptions).

Answer: Reading books is good.

2) On the subject of reading books, name one of your automatic negative thoughts.

Answer: I don't have much time to read.

3) On the subject of reading books, name a downside.

Answer: You can't learn all day. Fatigue sets in. And it's difficult to judge when you're properly refreshed enough to go back to the study.

4)  On the subject of reading books, name a benefit.

Answer: It's an enjoyable process. You can feel like a different person.

5) On the subject of reading books, name one of your automatic positive thoughts.

Answer: If reading fiction, you can get lost in another world.

6) On the subject of reading books, name one of your feelings.

Answer: It can be hard work if you're memorising information.

7) On the subject of reading books, name one of your thoughts. 

Answer: The knowledge I've gained from reading has improved my life since I started reading seriously in my 20s. 

Arrows (Why is that good to me? Why is that bad to me?)

The Arrows technique (asking "Why is that good to me?" and "Why is that bad to me?" ) is covered in the Big Picture section above.

Hypothetical

For the hypothetical, I create - and think about - a hypothetical action I could do. I am asking, "What would happen if I did (hypothetical action)...?" and then I can apply the BA DAFT and Arrows tools above.

To form my hypothetical, I use random adjectives and the format:

If I do something-X

I pick a random adjective for the "X" and ask myself "What action does that suggest?"

So, for the topic reading books, the random adjective "bleary" for the "X" gives:

If I do something-bleary.

And then I ask, "What action does that suggest?" Maybe:

If I burn the midnight oil and study until the small hours.

More Examples of Hypotheticals:

If I do something...benevolent: Contribute to the local library. Give some books away.
If I do something...cheeky: Leave smart arse comments in library books.
If I do something...unwanted: Read a book that doesn't interest me at all.
If I do something...moany: Write critical reviews of books I hate on Amazon.
If I do something...aesthetic: Try to design a cover for a book.
If I do something...alone: Live in a cave and spend all day reading.
If I do something...red: Read Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.
If I do something...matey: Ask mates what they're reading at the mo.
If I do something...material: Read up on understanding the economy.
If I do something...interrogative: Read about interrogation techniques and brainwashing.

I can apply BA DAFT and the arrows techniques to any of those, or I can use any of the Folio tools.

WITOWT (What If The Opposite Were True).

There's a simple question I use to challenge assumptions and beliefs etc. It's "What if the opposite were true?", which is represented by the acronym WITOWT. It works on beliefs, thoughts, assumptions and opinions. Generally speaking, WITOWT can be applied to anything that could be recognised as an assertion. In addition to asking WITOWT? I like to generate thoughts that are somewhere on the scale between the opposites.

For example,  if I believe, "I'm no good at singing", then that's an assertion, and I can ask WITOWT? and generate the opposite:

I'm great at singing!

then list points between the two opposites - "I'm no good at singing" and,  "I'm great at singing":

I'm okay at singing.
I can sing sometimes.
I can sing some kinds of tunes.
I can sing tunes that don't have a great range of notes.
etc.

Tool 7: Paper

With the Paper tool, I look back on the information written on the page so far (I usually work on A4 paper), parenthesise a selected section of the writing (it can be a word, a phrase, sentence, paragraph etc) and "lift" that information away to focus on with the SHM ABI PLT tools in its own right.

For example, scrolling up in this article I could pick out information such as:

This is a simplified version.
Produce more switches in my thinking.
My thinking.
I pick a random adjective and use it as a trigger to generate some advice.
Make a difference?
Relaxes the reader.
The purpose of the creative mentor.

I can opt to stay on-topic or go off-topic. So, for example, with "my thinking" I could stay on-topic and think about my thinking in relation to the topic -  reading books - or go off-topic and think about my thinking more generally.

Tool 8: Label and Extract

Label

The Label tool represents information with a single word. This makes the information into a manageable chunk and can open it up to more thinking options, ideas and possibilities.For example if I've written the sentence, "I can't sleep at night", then labeling it as "that problem" makes for a more manageable way to attack and think about the problem (I could use Advice-mentor, Questions-mentor, or any of the SHM ABI PLT tools).

I can use any word to label any amount of information I want, but the words from this group of words seem to work again and again: challenge, fact, question, goal, action, thing, sentence, problem. 

Example of Label:

The sentence I'm looking at is:

Some books are too expensive to touch.

That can be labeled as a fact, and I can then refer to the idea that some books are too expensive to touch as "that fact".

More Examples of Label: 

A party manifesto: That publication.
Reading up on music theory:  That mission.
Reading the work of a famous satirist: That idea.
Finding a way to project a book onto a wall: That challenge.
Reading a book in the bath: That action.
What makes a good reader? That question.

NB: If the information is plural then "those" can be used instead of "that":

People who read books: Those readers.
Stories that appear in trilogy form: Those stories.

Extract

To do the Extract option, I parenthesize some words in the past sentence and "lift them out", to consider them in their own right. For example, while thinking about the reading books topic, I could've generated the following sentence:

Have any books been written by ouija board?

I can parenthesise some of the words there:

Have any books been (written by ouija board?)

and lift them out, to focus on them in their own right:

Written by ouija board.

More Examples of Extract:

Here are some sentences. The words I could extract are inside the parentheses.

(What makes a wise) reader?
(Learn to read) Latin.
(Ways to express information) in ways that relaxe the reader.
The (horror) genre.
If floats (my boat).
You can't (judge a book by) its cover.
Might read and study a book only to find the (information is useless).

Tool 9: TRIPES - Making Sentences Evolve.

The six TRIPES options make changes to the written word (usually those words are in sentence form). The six TRIPES options make random changes to a sentence so that the sentence evolves and the new sentence can be interpreted (or re-interpreted) to generate new meanings/ideas etc.As an example of the evolution that can occur to a sentence, the sentence:
 
I read a book a week.

could evolve - by the use of the TRIPES options in combination -  to a new sentence such as:

I will write a review of every book I read.

and then on to:

(an off-topic sentence) I will discover some cool subterranean places to explore.

T: Threeword Option: Convert to Three Letters

With the T - Threeword - option I convert the written information (that information could be a word, a phrase or a sentence) to just three words that I think roughly mean the same thing.

Examples of Threeword Option:

The sentence:

There are books that are very valuable.

Converts to: 

Expensive books exist.

The sentence:

I polish up on music theory.

converts to:

Boost music knowledge.

Converting the words to one syllable

Sometimes I also like to convert the words to words of just one syllable. Where:

Boost music knowledge.

converts to:

Boost tune nous. 

Why convert to one syllable? I find the ambiguity of three words of one syllable is more open to interpretation. For example, "boost tune nous" could suggest the idea, "Boost your knowledge of existing tunes." (I've made it my goal to hear every Beatles' track recorded.)

R: Replace Option: Replace a Word

With the R - Replace- option,  I replace a word in a sentence with another word. I can intuitively replace the existing word, or I can replace it with a word randomly generated to see if any ideas or new thoughts are suggested by the resulting new sentence. (A quick and easy way to replace a word systematically is to simply replace it with a rhyming word. If the word to be replaced is of more than one syllable then it's easy to replace it with a word of one syllable and find a rhyme for that word instead.)

Example of Replace Option:

If one of my sentences generated during the reading books focus is:

Get my kids signed up for the library.

then a good intuitive replacement could be swimming for library:

Get my kids signed up for the swimming.

If I opt to replace a word with a random word, then rids could replace kids:

Get my rids signed up for the library.

What could that mean? Maybe books I'm getting rid of - to boot sales and church fetes - I could donate to the library instead?

I: Interpret Option

Interpret

With the I - Interpret - option, I interpret the information, or think of ways that I could re-interpret the information.

For example, if the topic was reading books then I could interpret that in a few ways: I could interpret it as the action of reading books. or I could think it refers to books that can be read, or I could even interpret it as referring to books that are from Reading.There are obviously endless ways to interpret the written word. I try to do three or four interpretations of words/phrases/sentences, but sometimes I like to go a little crazy and name as many as I can and for something like reading books I could end up with the surreal image of something like a living book sitting in an armchair having a read.

Examples of Interpret Option:

Sentence: Music theory:
Interpretation 1: The facts that help you to understand music.
Interpretation 2: My theory that The Beatles unconsciously used the Hokey Cokey as a template for the song Yellow Submarine.

Sentence: Words on paper:
Interpretation 1: Words written in books.
Interpretation 2: Watermarks.
Interpretation 3: Words written on newspapers.

Sentence: You can drift off to another world when you read:
Interpretation 1: Reading fiction can make you imagine yourself in another world. That's good!
Interpretation 2: You can drift off and daydream when you're reading non-fiction or studying. That's bad!

P: Parenthesise-The-Start Option

With the P - Parenthesise - option, I parenthesise a number of words at the start of the sentence and lift them out of the sentence and ask myself, "What could that mean?"

Examples of Parenthesise Option:

Sentence: I polish up on music theory.
Parenthesise (I polish up) on music theory.
Interpret: I polish up = What do I need to review?

Sentence: People queuing at the middle of the night to buy books. 
Parenthesise: (People queuing) at the middle of the night to buy books.
Interpret: The phenomenon of people having to wait to collect something or buy something.

Sentence: You can drift off to another world when reading.
Parenthesise: (You can drift off to another world when) reading
Interpret: There are other things that can make you drift off? What are they?
Further thoughts? Meditation. Sleep. 

Sentence: Learn to read Latin
Parenthesise: (Learn to read) Latin
Interpret: Learn to read
Further Thoughts: Can you learn to forget how to read? Could I learn to read in another language?

Sentence: Battles have accounts done by the fallen.
Parenthesise (Battles have accounts) done by the fallen.
Interpret: Battles have accounts.
Thoughts: What is the cost of a war? In terms of lives lost and financially? Which war was "most expensive"?

E: Expand Option

With the E - Expand - option I expand the words to make a proper sentence. How long is that sentence? I will usually (because I write on paper) aim to expand the information to fill about a line of an A4 pad. (That's about 8 to 10 words.) So reading books could expand to:

When you get a book and read it to gather information.

If the information was already a full sentence then I'll pick a word that can work as the first word of the sentence then rewrite the sentence. For example, with the sentence:

Books can make you think about your life.

the think(ing) can go at the front of the sentence and the rewrite that follows reads thus:

Thinking about your life can happen when you read books.

Examples of Expand Option:

Sentence: List mistakes I regret
Expansion: List the things I've done in my life I later regretted.

Sentence: The horror genre:
Expansion: The genre of writing that aims to scare the reader.

Sentence: Children's books are for sale.
Expansion: Books that appeal to children can be purchased. 

Sentence: You can study something only to find the information is obsolete.
Expansion: (Where "information" goes to the front of the sentence): Information can be obsolete once you've learned it.
 
Sentence: I read a book a week.
Expansion: I will sit down and read a different book every week. 

S: Synonym Replacement

With the S - Synonym - option, I replace one - or any number of - words in a sentence with a synonym. The subtle changes in meaning of the sentence after application of the Synonym option can lead the thinking in novel directions.

NB: I lean towards using words of one syllable or two, but it's okay if it's more.I am also more likely to change just nouns and verbs in the sentence because these are more likely to bring changes in meaning and they're easy to change.

For example, in the sentence: 

I polish up on music theory.

The word "polish" can be replaced with the word "learn", the word "up" can be replaced with "more", the word "music" can be replaced with the word "tune", and the word "theory" can be replaced with the word, "mechanics". Which gives:

I learn more on tune mechanics.

Which - as an idea - could suggest to me that I spend some time looking into the mechanics of existing songs - chord structures, etc - to improve my knowledge of music theory and my compositions.

More Examples of Synonym Replacement:

Sentence: Read about the famous satirists.
After synonym change: Search on the great comics.
Interpretation and thoughts. What could that mean? Maybe: "Do some research on Bob Hope or other famous comedians".  It could apply to the great paper comics. When did Spiderman first appear? What about Hulk? What is their history? Etc.

Sentence: Read a book a week.
After synonym change: Scan a novel each Monday.
Interpretation and thoughts. Scan first chapter of a different novel each week? I read mostly non-fiction. Fiction is a blind spot. Maybe I need to dip into fiction a bit more; I could read just the first chapters of books to see if I'd enjoy the book.

Sentence: People who read lots of books.
After synonym change: Folk who see masses of publications.
Interpretations and thoughts: That could be publishers, agents, bookshop workers etc.

All the TRIPES Options Used Together

In this example I'm using all the TRIPES options together, but I pick which tool to use next randomly. In this example, the sequence of the options I follow is: E, S, T, P, I, R. 

Reading books

E - Expand: Looking at books to get useful information from them.

S - Synonyms: Viewing the publications to get good facts from them.

T - Threeword: Utilising book facts

P - Parenthesis: Utilising books

I - Interpret: Using books in ways that are productive and useful to you.

So far I've stayed on-topic. Now to go off-topic:

Using books in ways that are productive and useful to you.

R - Replace: Using cooks in ways that are productive and useful to you.

If I treat that as an idea what would it suggest? Maybe it's time to try some new food!

Another Example of all the TRIPES Options Used Together:

This example starts with the sentence:

Find a way to project a book onto a wall.

The sequence I use here is: T, S, R, I, S, T, I.

Threeword: Walls display books.
Synonym: Walls have publications.
Replace: Wars have publications.
Interpret: Wars have diaries written by soldiers.
Synonym: Battles have accounts done by (the) fallen.
Threeword: (The) Fallen leave records.
Interpret: Dead people leave wills.


See Also...

How to create a list of adjectives quickly.

Works in Progress

Intuitive version of FOLIO (Link to come)
The 100 questions of FOLIO (Link to come)
10 brainstorms on "reading books" (Link to come).

FOLIO Contents

I'll use this post to provide links to the FOLIO posts. FOLIO stands for "Foundations of Life and its Options". It addresses the question, "What shall I think about?", then, "Where do I start thinking?", then, "How do I direct and expand that thinking?"

FOLIO introduction

A Simplified Version of FOLIO

(See also:  How to create a list of random words quickly)

FOLIO: Foundations Of Life and Its Options.

I've been working on this project for years and have recently made great progress I want to share for feedback. The project is called FOLIO, which stands for Foundations of Life and Its Options.

The general question I've tackled is:

When I'm thinking about something, where do I start thinking? (though just as valid a start is the question WHAT can I think about?)

and once I've chosen that point, the next question generated is:

Where does my thinking go from that point?

And from that point, the questions become more specific:

How can I guide my thinking? How can I find different perspectives? How can I explore a topic fully? How can I step out to see the bigger picture? What are my options for areas to focus on? Etc.

Problems that have inspired me to develop FOLIO.

My wife suggested that I could take my daughter to a playground on Saturday mornings. This is an utterly simple suggestion, but I find it interesting to think it's one perhaps you might never have by chance, even though it's a great idea and essentially very simple. Even if you live to be one hundred years old you might never think of that idea. How to structure my thinking so that I can generate options for things to do with my daughter? More broadly, how to structure my thinking so that a vast array of options of things to think about and do with my life are easy to generate?...Should I become a vegetarian? Were my school years really a waste of time? What could I study? Should I? Could I be a nasty person without realising it? How can I find out? What can I do about my nasty procrastination habit? Would it be fun to go on a meditation retreat? What are my preconceptions about meditation retreats? Are my preconceptions about meditation retreats stopping me from going on one? How can I find out my preconceptions about other subjects? Am I happy? Should I be happy? What proactive things could I do to make my family more happy? Etc.

The "Name 100 uses for a paperclip" challenge. This is a well known creativity challenge. I could be doing the challenge and busily brainstorming possible uses for a paperclip when I suddenly make a switch from thinking of actual uses for the paperclip, to thinking to myself, "My mate Dave is very creative - I'll ring him and ask him for some ideas!" How can I systematically make switches like that? So that I may come up with other options to help with the big 100-uses challenge? Here's some switches that might help me in my quest:

Start a blog called, "Name 100 uses for a paperclip" and ask readers to contribute ideas.
Contact brainstorming consultants and ask them what ideas were generated when they did this challenge.
I could visit a factory that makes paperclips and take a tour for inspiration.
I could research the manufacturing process.
I could use Google to look at images of existing paperclips for inspiration.
I could ask you to leave your idea for a use in the comments below.

And then there's the possibility of going off on other interesting tangents:

Just what is it about listing uses for paperclips that makes for a great creativity challenge?
What would be a more interesting creativity challenge?
Could I invent a better paperclip?
How many paperclips are there in the world?
Would setting a target of 500 uses make for more creative ideas than 100?
What mindset leads to the most creative ideas?
Could I make the biggest paperclip ever made and get in the Guinness Book Of Records?

Conclusion

So, this obsession with the starting point of thinking and the guidance of thinking to generate perspectives and options has inspired me to create FOLIO. I think FOLIO could also be called FONIO, which would stand for Foundations Of Now and Its Options, Or simply JO, which would be Juncture Options.

I will post the first FOLIO techniques in the coming weeks.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^
That's the introduction to FOLIO I posted on the 19th of July. As I think of more important points about FOLIO I will post them below.
 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^
(29th July, 2014) I want FOLIO to be like a "manual to my younger self" so that I'm writing the "manual about life" I wish I'd had when I was 18 (or younger!).

(30th July, 2014). Some other challenges that I hope will be tackled by FOLIO:

What's the best mindset to have if you want an enquiring mind?
How to make your thinking in CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) expand to consider more life options?

(3rd August, 2014): Although I'm hoping FOLIO will be one big, all-encompassing model, there will be loads of stand alone techniques I want to share. Not sure where these are going to go yet!

See also: FOLIO contents

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My memory technique

On my John's Memory Systems blog I've posted a memory technique I've devised, the Adjective and Verb memory technique.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Current Projects

Haven't been posting prolifically for quite a while, but I've still been working very hard on my ideas. These are my current projects:

Writing Jokes

This took over my life! I'd long viewed the writing of jokes as a great exercise in lateral thinking. I honed my joke writing to the point where I was good enough to do stand up comedy in pubs and clubs. It went really well. I continue to work on my joke writing.


The "Alternative Pivot"

This became an obsession.When you are thinking about a subject creatively and you make a switch in focus that leads to new ideas, what is the "thinking pivot" that led to the switch? How can you devise strategies that mean you can consciously make such switches?

For example: You are doing the classic creativity exercise - listing as many uses for a paperclip as possible. Standard responses would be along the lines of:

Link them and use as a chain.
Make a hair clip
Wrap the paperclip round a pencil to make a spring.
Use to clean fingernails.
A bookmark.

However, a switch in thinking may happen. This switch could lead to viewpoints such as these:

Google for "uses for a paperclip" to get ideas from other lists on the net.
Contact paperclip manufacturers to find uses.
Start a blog called "Listing uses for paperclips" and get ideas from other people.
Make a list of other paperclips that are available instead of the standard type. (For example, you can buy giant paperclips and these may suggest a catalogue of other uses that become apparent because of its size.)

These kind of switches can happen by chance, but I want to make the switching more systematic.

Another good example is what I call the "British Rail Trick" that I saw on a programme many years ago. A group of executives from British Rail went for a first  meeting with  an advertising agency about doing some adverts for British Rail. When the executives arrived they were made to wait in a room. The agency kept them waiting two hours.Eventually they brought them coffee but the coffee was cold. Eventually a person working for the advertising agency entered the room, smiled and said, "Our job is to ensure your passengers don't feel how you feel right now."

How was the person who came up with the idea for this stunt come up with the idea? How did they switch their focus to thinking about how they could utilise a time that is usually taken for granted - the time spent in a waiting room - to make a clever point? With "normal" thinking the meeting would probably have been a routine meeting about what the agency could offer, and the real creativity would happen when the agency sat down to make up adverts.But with a switch in thinking the agency came up with a novel approach.

What is the alternative-pivot that would systematically lead to this type of "switch thinking"?
I've made good progress and I'll be posting soon.

The "4th 'R'"

This is thought-experiment territory. In school you learn the importance of the "Three 'R's" - reading, writing and arithmetic. Is there another 'R' that is just as important but is missing? What could this 4th-R be? I think it could be something along the lines of "option management" - a bundle of strategies that can be used to be introspective about our life and think creatively and productively about the concepts that make up who we are and what we do in our life.

For example, my wife suggested the idea that we should devote Saturday mornings to playing with our daughter. A very simple idea but you could - as with many other simple ideas - get through a life without considering that option - even though it's utterly simple. How to structure your own thinking so that options like that become available? My thoughts about this are related to my thoughts about the alternative-pivot - you need to find a thinking strategy that makes your thinking switch to considering options that are available.

Systematic Fiction Project

Been working on this one for fourteen years now! I've made some great progress, with most of the breakthroughs coming from the type of thinking I've had to do when juggling concepts around in my head while trying to write jokes.

First you need an "idea hook". That is, a simple idea for a story/scenario that makes you think, "Wow, that's a good idea for a story! I wonder what happened?" Then you need to develop a story in a way I call "Idea to idea": That is, you have your idea-hook but need to find the next inspiring idea to give the story its next direction; an idea that inspires you and gets your brain thinking about possibilities. 

The "Fake Day" 

I keep a diary - the sort where I write the day's events. I want to be able to create a diary with "fake days" where I create events for a future diary that are plausible but creative. This may help with other creativity techniques.

Lucid Dreaming Techniques

I'm not happy with the current techniques out there to achieve lucid dreaming. They seem like a lot of work for little returns. We might find out in the future that these techniques are indeed the best way to achieve lucidity, but until then I'm going to assume there's a great technique to achieve regular lucidity that we haven't discovered yet. 

Thursday, March 06, 2014

A New Blog About Lucid Dreaming Experiments


I've started a new blog where I'll be posting my lucid dreaming experiments (I don't want to clutter up this blog with all the experiments I'm doing!) The most important challenge there is to simply find strategies that lead to the most lucid dreams.

Lucid Dreaming Experiments 

 I'll be posting some new creativity techniques on this blog very soon.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

SSILD Lucid Dreaming Technique

There is now a blog about the SSILD lucid dreaming technique:

SSILD lucid dreaming

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sunday, January 06, 2013

2013...

..and this blog is still alive!

Been busy working on my joke writing, devising lucid dreaming techniques and looking at improving my general creativity. Hoping to have the time to post soon!