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.

Monday, July 21, 2014

FOLIO Post 1: The Adviser

(FOLIO stands for Foundations Of Life And Its Options. See Folio intro )

Starting Scenario.

I'm sat doing the well known creativity challenge Name 100 Uses For A Paperclip.Suppose I want to think about the challenge in more detail? Suppose I want to be aware of my thinking itself, and the routes it takes and can potentially take? If, the day after doing my paperclip challenge, I suddenly had the thought, "Oh! I could've got more ideas by calling my creative friends for input!" how could  I  have generated that option while doing the exercise originally? How could I  find more options like that - and potentially  an unlimited number of options to explore and develop? What is the place to start?

The Fantasy Adviser

I've found a great way to start thinking about something is to imagine I have a fantasy adviser with me, offering advice. This way, I bring my thinking into the present moment - it's like a take a step back from what I'm working on to become aware of the bigger picture. It all sounds a bit "invisible friend" but it's a simple idea and doesn't involve any fancy visualisations or anything like that. It's a simple step: While I'm working on something, I switch to imagining briefly that an adviser is sat to the right of me and is offering advice.

The Advice

What form does the advice come in? To keep the start as simple as possible, I imagine that the adviser says one word (a randomly chosen one of one syllable) and I then interpret that word.

So, for example, if I'm doing the paperclip challenge and I switch to imagining the adviser and he says the word "glad". Here's some possible interpretations and ideas:

Glad: List what's good about the paperclip ideas you've generated so far.*
Glad: Focus on only creating ideas that will make people happy.

Here are some possible intepretations for the word "grand":

Grand: Get a thousand paperclips and create uses for them.**
Grand: Invent a grand paperclip - a gold paperclip, etc.

See: How to create a list of random words quickly.

More examples:

Stun: Stun the world by doing a million uses for the paperclip..
Snub: Stop doing this exercise and go and do something else!
Sink: "Sink" this challenge - drop the challenge and find another creativity challenge.
Sky: Work out how many paperclips would be in a chain that's long enough to reach the sky/space.
Skip: Make a skipping rope of paperclips.

A Possible Problem

I could, when I think about the random word from the adviser, get "stuck" on listing possible uses for the paperclip rather than taking a step back to seeing the bigger picture. For example, for the words above I could've come up with:

Glad: Bend the paperclip into a smile shape.
Grand: Sell the paperclip for a grand on eBay.

With those I've got "locked" on thinking of paperclip uses. There are a myriad of approaches among the FOLIO tools to stop this happening, but if I want to achieve this mentality right at the point of using this adviser approach I can consider that there are three main responses possible to the random word: The surreal, the irrelevant, and the normal (that gives "sin" for those of you who are as passionate (obsessed?) about acronyms as me). So, using the word "glad" again:

Glad (surreal): Run out into the streets and shout "Hallelujah for paperclips!"
Glad (irrelevant): Make a list of things in my life I'm grateful for.
Glad (normal): Ask someone what makes them glad about a paperclip - what they look for in a paperclip.***

This SIN approach can help to avoid the "locking" of the mindset. Another useful mentality is to set a little quota for each word. Sometimes I will set a quota of say, ten ideas for one word.With the paperclip challenge and the word "grand" this could give:

Grand: Make the project grand, more official

Grand: Sell the ideas, £1000 each.
Grand: Use a paperclip as a tuning tool on a grand piano.
Grand: Have a "100 uses for a paperclip" conference at the Grand Hotel.
Grand: Bend paperclips to spell the word "GRAND".

Grand: Have a grand plan - emulate the man who turned a paperclip into a house.
Grand: Melt millions of paperclips and build a grandstand.
Grand: How to take a normal paperclip and make it worth £1000?
Grand: How many paper clips can you buy for £1000?
Grand: Sell an ordinary paperclip for £1000 just for good:causes.

This quota approach can also help to avoid the locking of the mindset.


So, imagining a fantasy adviser giving me advice is a good place to start thinking about something. Each of the ideas of having a fantasy adviser or utilising of random inputs is nothing new of course, but I've found using them in combination is a great place to start using the FOLIO tools.

It's worth noting that, if I were applying the adviser approach to the here and now rather than to some hypothetical situation such as  things to do with paperclips, I'd actually be interpreting the advice so that it applies to me here, now, sat at this computer typing. So, the random word "nut" from my adviser might suggest, "Go eat some nuts and relax". And that's exactly what I'm going to do :)

tl;dr: When you are working on an activity, imagine you have an adviser sat with you who is offering advice. Interpret that advice.  

See also: How to create a list of random words quickly
Random Input (Edward de Bono's technique)

* For the idea "List what's good about the ideas you've generated so far" you could, for example, for an idea like "use the paperclip as a toothpick" list that this idea "stops you from having to spend money on toothpicks" From there you could specialise in only creating paperclip ideas that help you to save money.

** "Make a suit of chain mail armour out of paperclips" springs to mind.

*** They probably haven't put too much thought into that, to be honest!

FOLIO Contents

I'll use this post to provide links to the FOLIO posts.

FOLIO Step 1: The Adviser

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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

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?

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?


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?

See also: FOLIO contents

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


..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!