Thursday, July 14, 2005

Percentage Pockets

About this post

Technique in a nutshell: you select a period of time, consider an activity that occurs in that time period and change the percentage of that activity in the time period.

Example: You know that two hours will be spent eating a meal at a restaurant. Your chosen activity is 'tipping'. To increase the percentage of tipping could suggest providing a tip specifically for the chef in addition to the waiter.

Percentage Pockets

Percentage pockets can be used like Experiments In The Day to change behaviour and suggest ideas for changed behaviour. There are four stages to using the percentage pockets:

1) Select duration
2) Name activity that occurs in that duration
3) Calculate (guesstimate) percentage of activity in that duration
4) Change the percentage and see if any new behaviour is suggested

1) Select duration

I will make a list of various durations:

The next ten minutes
The next two hours
2 o' clock to 4 o' clock today
Christmas Day

Or alternatively I will list an action I know I will do during the day and use that action to label the duration. Thus:

Jogging hour
Brainstorming afternoon
Watching television two hours

2) Name/List actions

I will make a list of actions and randomly choose one of these actions. For example:

Talking, considering, reading, seeing, seeking, jumping etc

Or alternatively I can choose an action I know will occur within the duration. So for jogging I could choose: breathing, sprinting, putting shoes on, sweating, recovering etc

3) Calculate (guesstimate) percentage of activity in that duration

I will create a guesstimate as to how much of an activity occurs within the duration. So, for my jogging hour duration and the activity 'reading' chosen I can guess initially that the reading percentage would be zero. But it's quite probable that I'll glance at an advertising hoarding as I'm running along so maybe my guesstimate for reading during the jogging hour could be at 0.2 percent.

4) Change percentage to see if new behaviour or ideas are suggested

The percentages of zero percent and 100 percent are usually the percentages I start with. So with the jogging/reading example '100 percent reading while jogging' would initially suggest that I run with a book. Dangerous. However if I consider the '100 percent reading while jogging' as a target that I have to achieve then I can get down to some creative thinking. 100 percent reading would be doable if I used a treadmill. So a reasonably good idea is a by-product of the percentage pocket.

With 'zero percent reading' I would have to avoid the advertising hoardings! I would do this perhaps by running in a field. I could change my route. Again, an idea is a by-product of the percentage pocket.

If I pick a random percentage such as '15 percent reading while jogging' then perhaps this would suggest having a break in the jogging to read a book.

Experiments In The Day

Percentage pockets can lead to changes in behaviours that are usually routine. If the duration used is 'Saturday morning' and the action is 'being nostalgic' I can consider that my usual nostalgia rate on a Saturday morning is zero percent! But if I set the rate at 100 percent: "Saturday morning is 100 percent nostalgia" then I create the idea of devoting a Saturday morning to nostalgia and I can think of ways I can reach the 'target' of 100 percent. I can look at old photos, read through my old diaries, visit FriendsReunited, recreate walks from my past and take an imaginary walk through my old schools.

Transactional Analysis

The percentage pockets approach was inspired by Transactional Analysis. The TA practitioners would advocate being aware of how much time is spent in the different states such as Nurtuting Parent, Critical Parent and Adult etc. I wanted to take a further step so that it would be possible to create sub-categories of each state. So for Nurturing Parent I could be more specific about behaviours that would be typical of Nurturing Parent. For Free Child I could create crazy goals to reflect the Free Child spirit.


Dicing is when an individual creates six options and rolls and dice to choose which option to take. The book of the die by Luke Rhinehart has some examples - some of them crazy such as: 'burp in a meeting', 'do everything backwards - even walk backwards', 'get on all fours and observe objects close-up'. The percentage pockets approach can be used to create dicing options - both sensible and crazy. For example, if the duration is 'one day' and I consider changing my "saying 'but'" percentage to zero I would spend a day never disagreeing with anyone!

Ideas and general creativity

The percentage pockets approach can lead to new ideas.

In this entry on the Innovation Tools site Doug Fine discusses Silent Brainstorming. Silent brainstorming could be a product of the percentage pockets method where the talking percentage would be zero. The percentage for 'boozing' at a brainstorming session would probably be zero percent so why not drunken brainstorming?

At a job interview the questioning (by the interviewee) would be at about ten percent at the most. Why not increase the percentage of questioning?

What percentage of dreaming would feature 'waking'? Zero percent probably. Much has been written on the problem-solving ability of dreams. If the 'waking' percentage was increased this would suggest that a person could be artificially woken during/after a dream to see if the otherwise 'lost' dream could offer any insights.

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