Wednesday, November 30, 2005

18 Tricks To Teach Your Body/ Creative focusing

I found this interesting article through the Ninja Monkeys! blog. The article discusses tricks such as scratching your ear to cure a tickly throat, and touching the floor when drunk to stop the room spinning. I like the advice on stopping stitches when running - I never knew that I exhale as my right foot hits the ground!

Like I demonstrated in the Profiling The Zone of Attention post I am interested in specific focuses - such as the focus on exhalation when running - and methods to ensure that as many facts about a situation can be listed as possible. In his book Serious Creativity Edward de Bono discusses how many strong ideas have been generated as a result of specific focuses. Over the next few weeks I'll be putting a lot of effort into devising strategies to make such focusing possible. With these two Global Ideas Bank ideas:

A monthly compilation of new ideas from all ideas sites


Public vote to choose Olympic's new sport

the initial focuses were (if I assume that the generation of the ideas began with a focus):

The collective ideas of all online ideas sites


The choosing of the Olympic's new sport.

Both focuses are possible without any high degree of specialised knowledge but they are still difficult focuses to make. I want to devise methods that can find specific focuses such as these and generate more quickly and easily.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Creativity technique: naming/listing people

About this post

Technique in a nutshell: when you want to create a list of people, colour/texture the action of naming by using adjectival phrases or words.

Example: Name a party person

It can help to generate a list of disparate people to help with creativity; considering the fantasy input of others - both real people and fictional people - can provide interesting perspectives on creative effort or problem solving. The lists can also be used to help kick-start creativity at the blank page stage.

I can start out with a simple directive such as:

Name a person

And name a few people. But to add colour to the naming I can select a random word (from a dictionary, directed free association results or and use it adjectivally. With a random word such as 'code' I get the directive:

Name a code person

and I can name as many people as possible - perhaps working to a quota of five or any other number:

1) Alan Turing
2) Dan Brown
3) Mona Lisa (Mona Lisa is an anagram of 'I also man' - some consider that the Mona Lisa is a depiction of Leonardo da Vinci as a woman)
4) Samuel Morse
5) Samuel Pepys

I can opt to use two adjectival words instead of one to further colour the naming (and add extra challenge!). So with the random words 'eye' and 'death' I create the directive:

Name an eye death person

and list five people. NB: I always try to complete five namings, even if some of them are a bit of a cheat or a slight interpretation on the meaning of the adjectival words.

1) King Harold
2) Peter Cook
3) Peter Falk
4) The Grim Reaper (A cheat: he eyes dead people)
5) Evil Knievel

Using the lists

Once I have built up a sizeable list of people I can use it for creative thinking.

If I am at the blank-page stage wondering 'what can I create?' then the following question can kick-start my thinking:

What would X invent?

and I consider what any person from the list would invent. Perhaps:

King Harold: a suit of armour to protect the eyes
Alan Turing: ways for a computer to improve its performance in the Turing Test.
Peter Falk: clever tricks that Columbo can use to catch out killers

I can also track (or guess-track) a person throughout their life and ask the question:

What did X invent/create throughout their life?

and consider any ideas they may have created throughout the various stages of their life.

Fourword game

I'm a bit of a trivia anorak and I made up this game called the 'fourword game'. You have to think of four words that, when used as a Google search, may come up with some interesting facts, trivia or statistics. Suggestions welcome. Here are some sample fourwords:

got rich quick by...
made an overnight fortune...
hid the body in...
made a fatal error...
ultimate Darwin Award candidate...
holds an unusual record...
survived a horrific attack...
ate a deadly toadstool...
survived at ground zero...
nobody saw him again...
the stupidest world record...
the ultimate computer hacking...
was buried with his...
accidentally got married when...

I'll have a search for these and report any interesting findings!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Tardis-space and tardis-time

Tardis-space and tardis-time are two useful approaches that I've been experimenting with.


Tardis-space, put simply, is when an area is bigger on the inside than the outside. Thus the area can contain more things - objects, people etc - than is apparent from the 'outside'. The tardis-space can be within an object but it can also be in any area of space.

Tardis-space is useful when cloning aspects. For example, I may imagine a PC monitor with a thousand screens. Because of tardis-space these screens can be superimposed over the actual screen and thus the screen area contains a thousand screens. Then I can begin to think of purposes/functions for each of the screens. Considering one of the screens as a 'filter' for words led to these ideas:

Learning a new language by gradually replacing words as you surf

and considering how one of the screens could have a 'recording' function led to the idea of a PC facility that records ALL screen activity, so that the user can review all their activity online at the end of the day or at some time in the future. This would be a useful tool for training departments. Perhaps trainees could review their day's learning from home at a later date? This would also be good for parents who would like to know their children are safe-surfing when using the internet.


Tardis-time is a similar idea to tardis-space but uses time instead of space. It could be said that chunks of time could be inserted into an event/activity etc. The chunks of time can be of any duration and the important point is that the subsequent events remain unaffected.

If an event was filmed and the frames were viewed on celluloid then time could be inserted between any two frames and the subsequent frames would remain unaffected. So if the event was over six frames:


then 'time' could be inserted between C and D and the subsequent frames (and thus events) of E F would remain unchanged.

In the example of a child birth:

A = arrival at maternity unit
B = child is born
C = doctor holds child
D = doctor gives child to mother
E = mother says 'aw'
F = mother goes home

Inserting a tardis-time of one hour between C and D I considered what events could occur. (Naturally the concept of tardis-time ensures that E and F are unaffected.) I thought of this idea:
Two 'twins' for each newborn baby

Analysing many films (for my 'automatic fiction' project) I've noticed that a sizeable number of events in any film can be viewed as 'time-tardis inserts' where the inserted events actually have no effect on subsequent events.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Supertools: for fiction and 'real world' creativity

About this post

Post in a nutshell: imagine you meet a magical being who gives you special powers:

You can choose any area in space where the powers operate. You can pinpoint and see anything in that area. You can move anything anywhere you want. You can follow anything backwards and forwards in time. You can possess anything. You can intensify or decrease a characteristic of anything. You can create a clone of anything then alter that clone. You can swap items. You can do any action. You can make anything else capable of using the powers.

I devised this range of supertools to be used when writing stories. They can also be constructively used with 'real world' creativity.

Supertools and fiction

As a range of tools used for an aid when writing fiction, I wanted the tools to have the potential to make anything possible within a story - so that anything can happen and any change can occur instantly or over a longer time period. I also wanted to entertain the possibility that restrictions could be applied to the tools to create difficulty and conflict within the story.

If I apply the supertools myself (as a story's writer) then I can use the tools in conjunction to set up any possible starting scenario. I can also use them to create 'what if?' possibilities - where I can create any possible development to see where that takes the story.

If I consider how a story's proponent (or any character) can use the tools (perhaps by introducing a magical character such as a deus ex machina or genii type character to empower the proponent/character) then - because the tools make anything possible - the character would be able to use the tools to solve problems, resolve conflict, or even set up any problem or difficult scenario for other characters.

Supertools and real world creativity

When applied to 'real world' creativity, the supertools can be used to create 'What if?' questions, discover problems, and suggest 'magical' solutions.

The Supertools

The supertools are as follows:

Zone of Attention, Superselect, Supermove, Track, Possess, Er, X-versions, What's X?, Swap, Other, Toolable

and they are used in conjunction with the BOSNIA ' ' ' tool.

Here is a brief overview of the tools:

Zone Of Attention

(See Zone of Attention post.)

A character can select a Zone of Attention. In this zone he will be able to operate any of the supertools. He can select a zone ranging in size from the atomic level all the way up to the entire universe.


A character needs to select something that will be the 'target' when the supertools are applied. Perhaps he will have a machine that can superselect, or a deus ex machina or genii effects the superselect. To use superselect the character simply states what things in the Zone of Attention will be operated on by the supertools. He can state a directive such as:

Superselect all terrified people

and if his Zone of Attention had been 'planet earth' then he will be able to see all the terrified people on earth and they become the target. The character then has the option to carry out any supertool on them.

Superlatives can also be used to refine the target. So a character could state the directive:

Superselect the angriest people


With a target selected the character can move that target anywhere he wants. If he had selected himself as the target he could move himself anywhere too.


(See Track and Freeze post.)

A character can use Track to follow a chosen target back in time or forward into the future.


A character can choose to possess any other character or even animals or objects.


With the ER supertool, a character can alter a characteristic of a target. Say, for example, the character has selected the moon as a target. He can then identify a characteristic of the moon and then change the degree of that characteristic. A characteristic will usually be described by an adjective or a phrase with an adjectival function. Example:

The moon is close

Application of the supertool ER means that the character can choose to make the moon closer or further away. These options can be written as: closER and furthER. The ER supertool also allows a character to choose the rate of change. So if a character chooses the 'closER' option for the moon and opts to make the change gradual then we have plenty of time to observe the ensuing panic on planet earth!


(See X-versions post).

The X-versions tool is used to create a different variety of a chosen target. (I have so far used this myself to create ideas for stories rather than consider how this could empower a character). For example, on one occasion I considered the Fight Club. One X-version created was:

Animal fight club

which led to the idea of a club where people fight animals for an audience.

What's X?

(See Zone of Attention Profiling post.)

This is another supertool I have used to both profile a Zone of Attention and also suggest ideas on what could be included in a Zone of Attention.


Swap allows a character to choose two targets within the Zone of Attention and literally swap their locations. Swap is great for forming 'What if?' questions.


Other is expressed in a simple sentence format:

Character does X X

The first 'X' is replaced by a verb/action and the second 'X' is replaced by a target for the action. I can choose a verb and a subject to complete a sentence such as:

Character does attack the plan

Other can also be used to suggest 'superhero' powers, so I can think of superhero-type powers and see what effect this has on the story. For example:

Character can subdue people

which may suggest a superpower that allows the character to make people fall asleep by touching them.


The Toolable supertool means that a character can make any person/object/thing/place capable of doing a chosen supertool. So, for example, a character could choose to make a wristwatch capable of superselecting people who have just won the lottery.

BOSNIA ' ' '

The acronym BOSNIA' ' ' is used to specify targets of supertools. BOSNIA stands for:

B. All but X (Where X is a chosen number)
O. One
S. Some
N. Number (Where a number must be specified)
I. Itself (Meaning an action is reflected back onto the user of the supertool)
A. All

The ' ' ' is a reminder of the possibility of carrying the action of the supertool over onto something associated with the initial target. So if an action is stated thus:

Man attacks dog

then the ' is a reminder of the possibility of:

Man attacks dog's owner.

The ' ' ' suggest the action can be carried even further:

Man attacks dog's owner's house.

Example of BOSNIA in use

Say for example my Zone of Attention is 'planet earth' and my directive for superselect is:

Superselect the angriest people

then each of the BOSNIA options could change that directive thus:

B: Superselect all but five angriest people
O: Superselect one angriest person
S: Superselect some angriest people
N: Superselect twenty angriest people
I: Superselect me as the angriest person
A: Superselect all the angriest people

and using ' ' ' could suggest:

Superselect the angriest people's friend's occupations.

Inger profiling

About this post

Post in a nutshell: An inger is something that will carry out an action on a subject in the future, carries out action now, or has carried out an action in the past. Inger profiling aims to systematically list the ingers. An inger can be a person, place, object etc.

Uses: as a fiction tool the listing of ingers can help you to fill out a story. As a general creativity tool it can help when you are listing information about a subject.

I devised the concept of the 'inger' to aid Directed Free Association and profiling subjects. An inger is, quite simply, anything that carries out an action on a subject, has carried out an action on a subject, or will carry out an action in the future. 'Inger' is one of the category headings:

Duration (Time): Place: Inger: Thing (Object): Person: Having: Doing (Activity): Being: Saying: Feeling: Thinking: Knowledge

The category headings are used for free association (see Directed Free Association and Flip-flop Directed Association) and profiling subjects (see profiling subjects and profiling using category headings).

Listing ingers

Suppose my subject (creative focus) is 'Buckingham Palace'. I can set a directive:

List ingers for Buckingham Palace.

To answer this directive I can simply list anything that carries out an action on Buckingham Palace, has carried out an action in the past, or will (could) carry out an action in the future:

Tourists (visiting)
Rain (weathering)
Cleaners (cleaning)
Guards (guarding)
Architect (designing)
Servant (assisting)
Photographer (photographing)
Historian (chronicaling)

Listing actions

I can alternatively make a list of actions and then consider what carries out the action:

Attacking (satirist, terrorist, anti-monarchist)
Entering (The Queen, Prince Charles, Prime Minister, knighthood recipient, trespasser (!) )
Improving (decorator, The civil list, security expert, designer)
Profiting (from) (United Kingdom, tourist guides, postcard sellers, anyone employed there)
Passing (traffic, pedestrians, tourists, aeroplanes, busses, birds)

Modify ingers using Category Headings

I can modify an inger directive using one of the Category Headings above. For example, I can choose the Category Heading "Person" and form a directive thus:

Name a person-inger of Buckingham Palace.

Then list some actions and name persons/people who could carry out that action:

Cherishing (The royals, the inhabitants, the tourists, the royalists, tourguide operators)
Scandalising (The media, the journalist who infiltrated the ranks of the employees, tabloids, Wallace Simpson)
Filming (BBC1 cameraman, television company staff, tourists, foreign television companies)

The inger cycle

The inger cycle is a useful approach for listing information. It is also a good tool to use when building up information when writing stories. To effect the inger cycle I simply name a subject (A) then name an inger for that subject (B), then name an inger for B (C) etc.


Suppose my subject is "Charles Saatchi" - the art gallery curator. I name an action (annoying, for example) then consider someone who may annoy Charles Saatchi. Say, Brian Sewell the art critic. Which gives:

Charles Saatchi: Brian Sewell (annoying).

Then I list the next action (enthralling, for example) and consider someone who may enthral Brian Sewell. Say, the artist JMW Turner. Which gives:

Charles Saatchi: Brian Sewell (annoying): JMW Turner (enthralling)

I can continue this exercise as long as I like, building up a sizeable list of actions and people. At the end of the listing I cycle back to the beginning. So this means - in this example - that I consider what action Charles Saatchi carries out on JMW Turner. So something like:

Charles Saatchi: rates, collects, hates, envies etc.

I can allow a degree of guessing, especially if I am writing fiction.


I use the aide-memoire inger-x to remind me that (as with random stimuli approaches) I can name the thing that carries out the action first and then specify the action it/they may carry out at some time. For example (with the Buckingham Palace example) if I pick 'Ewan McGregor' for my 'X' then I can list actions such as:

Visit, appear in movie about, pass, read about, research etc.

So my final Category Headings list reads:

Duration (Time): Place: Inger-x: Thing (Object): Person: Having: Doing (Activity): Being: Saying: Feeling: Thinking: Knowledge

Monday, November 21, 2005

Profiling the Zone Of Attention

About this post

Type of technique: profiling (listing information)

The technique helps to find both the obvious and non-obvious features of a scenario.

Technique in a nutshell: choose an area in space and ask questions in the format: What's x? For x, choose an adjectival word or phrase. Example: 'What's dangerous?'

See also posts:

Zone of Attention
Profiling Subject

Profiling the Zone of Attention

(c) I devised this useful bag of tools to help profile Zones of Attention. If I project a Zone of Attention onto an observed scene or a scene I am visualising in my imagination then I can use the tools to to list information about the contents of the Zone of Attention.

The impossible ideal would be to list everything in the ZOA. This would include physical aspects ranging from every single atom up to the largest objects in the ZOA, and occurences ranging from switching the computer on up to spending hours frantically trying to correct a computer problem.

Obviously the ideal isn't reachable but I want to work with a mindset of working towards that ideal. I also want to ensure that I list both the obvious and the non-obvious. In fact, some things are so obvious that they are difficult to see!

The Tools

Area selection. Duration selection. Pinpoint selection. Size selection. Shape selection. Adjective selection. Colour selection. Volume selection. Action selection. Quantity selection.

Area selection

With area selection I set a question in the format:

What's X?

and I choose a number. For example, 3. Then I choose a measurement - say centimetres - to give:

What's 3 cm?

Then I consider the Zone of Attention (such as the one with the computer above) and pick out objects that are about 3 cm in size, length, diameter etc. Remembering that the Zone of Attention is three dimensional I can pick out any object in the ZOA - including objects that are unseen (inside the computer etc.) I can also allow a degree of guessing.

Possible objects selected for 'What's 3cm?': the logo on the top of the monitor, the return key, the thickness of the front section of the monitor, the length of one of the 'telescopic' sections of the printer tray etc.

This listing could go on indefinitely.

I can select other measurements - I can choose to set a number of different 'What's X?' questions before I start listing information:

What's 1 cm? What's 10 cm? What's 1 mm? etc.

I can range from the smallest measurement (perhaps even considering the atomic level) up to the largest measurement - which would be the diameter of the Zone of Attention itself.

Duration selection

Duration selection can be used to list activities or occurences in the Zone of Attention. As with area spotting it takes the form:

What's X?

and I select a number and any time duration:

What's 1 second?

I then list activities for this Zone of Attention that occur over one second: switching on the PC, taking a piece of paper off the printer tray, shutting down, sipping a coffee, pressing any computer key during typing, etc.

As with area spotting this listing can go on indefinitely. I can also select different durations for different results:

What's a millisecond? What's 10 seconds? What's 3 days? What's 10 years?

For 'What's 10 years' I could consider something like 'the useful lifetime of the computer' , for example.

Pinpoint selection

Pinpoint selection is the simplest method of all: I move the pinpoint (the X inside the ZOA) around the Zone of Attention and name the object that is at the location of the pinpoint.

For example: the computer, the keyboard, the desk, the CPU, the monitor glass, the computer stand etc.

Size selection

With size selection I set a question in the format:

What's the size of X?

For the X I can either select a random object from a page of Directed Association results or choose an object in the Zone Of Attention. These could lead to questions such as:

What's the size of an apple?
What's the size of the space bar?

Shape selection

With shape selection I set a question in the format:

What's the shape of X? (or what's approximately the shape of X?)

For the X I can either select a random object from a page of Directed Association results or choose an object in the Zone Of Attention. These could lead to questions such as:

Random object: What's the shape of an umbrella?
Using an object in the Zone of Attention: What's the shape of the space bar?

Adjective selection

With adjective selection the question is, again, in the format:

What's X?

but I select an adjective for the X myself. I do this by selecting an object/place etc. from the Directed Association results and then listing possible adjectives for that chosen object/place. So if I pick:

Alcatraz prison

then I can list adjectives such as: grey, imposing, closed, historic etc. I can also make up 'adjectives' such as 'featured in a feature film' etc.

I then choose one of the adjectives ('closed' for this example) and then set the question:

What's closed?

and consider what things in the Zone of Attention are closed. For example: the access panel on the computer that is screwed shut (as with the keyboard), the lid of the printer, the books on the shelf etc.

Adjectives I have found to be useful: colour selection and volume selection

I have found that specifying colours and volumes has proved useful when listing information. These are specified for the questions:

What's coloured X?
What's volume: X?

So, for example, resulting questions could be:

What's coloured blue?
What's volume: quiet?

(With the volume question I can range from a scale of 'silent' up to 'deafening'.)

Action selection

With action selection I use the question format:

What's X - ing?

and then list actions. For example: leaving, reading, cooling, amazing, assisting, towering, lowering etc. ad infinitum.

I then select an adjective from the list ( 'cooling') and form a question thus:

What's cooling?

and I can pick out things in the Zone of Attention that are cooling. Perhaps: The monitor (that is cooling as it has been switched off), a cup of coffee, the computer keys (as they haven't been touched by a finger for a while) etc.

I always try to force an answer even when the action is difficult to spot in the Zone of Attention. So if the question was:

What's leaving?

Then to force an answer I could consider that air molecules are 'leaving' this particular Zone of Attention, for example.

Quantity selection

With quantity selection the question takes the format:

There are X what?

I specify a number and then select the object(s) that exist in that quantity within the Zone of Attention.

So for the question:

There are 3 what?

I could choose: 3 pieces of electrical equipment, 3 sections of telescopic printer tray, 3 side of the computer monitor visible etc.

Cyclic profiling

I use this cyclic profiling approach. I select any feature of the Zone of Attention listed using one of the tools above. For example: the computer. Then - as with adjective selection - I simply make a list of adjectives about that object. So with computer I could create a list such as:

Computer = electrical, grey, heavy, technological, frustrating (!), essential, expensive.

I can then select one of these adjectives to form a question such as:

What's electrical?

Then scan the Zone of Attention to list electrical features/objects etc.

Eg: The keyboard, resistors, sockets, printer, cables, static, etc.

Then I repeat the cycle:

Static = annoying, by-product, electrical, shocking

Which results in the question:

What's annoying?

Possible answers: Spilling coffee, computer crash, cables, moving equipment, power failure, printer jam, etc.

Use of superlatives

To use the superlatives approach I simple take the descriptive form of the adjective and change it to a superlative by adding 'est' (even if this creates a word not listed in a dictionary).

For example:

What's loudest? What's annoyingest? What's hottest? What's obsoletest?

Because of the degree of fuzzyness I often have to consider how to interpret the superlative. So with a question like:

What's reddest?

I could take 'reddest' to mean: the object that contains the most red, the object that is most strikingly red, etc. Also if it is fairly obvious that there is nothing red in the Zone of Attention then I look for a degree of redness.

Resources and inspirations:


Attribute Listing


TA Today, A New Introduction to Transactional Analysis, Ian Stewart, Vann Joines. Chapter 19: Frame of Reference and Redefining

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Some thoughts on problem finding

There are some great brainstorms being posted over at BrainReaction's Online Brainstorming Tool. The following problem caught my eye:

How can I keep the sun out of my eyes after it is lower than my car's visor?

and it got me thinking about how I can find and list simple problems (both obvious and non obvious) such as the visor problem. Obviously I could develop a 'problem awareness' and list problems as I encounter them in everyday life. However, one approach I'm toying with involves intensifying some aspect of a situation (often to ridiculous or impossible levels), listing what problems would arise from this change and then considering how these are similar to real-life problems.

So with the car example, I could focus on some aspect of the car - the headlights - and then list a measurable aspect of the headlights - the brightness. Then I would imagine an increase in the brightness of the lights. The brightness would increase inexorably - starting out with a dim glow and continuing up to a ridiculous level where the lights would be as bright as the sun or even the brighest object in the universe.

On this 'journey' I would be able to pick out problems and relate them back to real life problems:

At one stage the brightness would become too much for the driver. This could then trigger awareness of the driver's visor problem above.

Eventually the brightness would become too much for other drivers who would be dazed. This triggers awareness of the problem of people driving with lights on full beam in the dark and forgetting to revert to normal brightness.

As the brightness increased then the attention of passers-by would be drawn to the car and the incredible brightness. This triggers awareness of the problem of rubbernecking (especially on motorways where rubbernecking on the other side of the motorway can cause traffic jams).

Another example

I could look at another part of the car - the front bumper - and increase a measurable aspect - the weight - of the bumper.

Problems on the 'journey' of weight increase:

As the weight of the bumper increased the performance of the car would be impaired and it would slow down. This is perhaps similar to the real life problem of a car running low or out of fuel.

As the weight increased (and if the car was still able to function) then the bumper would start to scrape on the road producing sparks. This is similar to the problem of an exhaust breaking off making sparks appear.

Eventually the bumper would bring the car to a halt. As the bumper becomes inexorably heavier then eventually an indentation would appear in the road surface. This suggests the problem of potholes on the road.

I think maybe this approach has some potential. I'll tinker with it over the next few weeks and see if I can make the approach systematic.

Creativity Technique: Track and Freeze

About this post:

Technique in a nutshell: To track a subject, follow it backwards and forwards in time using your imagination (the tracking can be either realistic, fanciful or a mixture of both). To freeze, simply stop tracking the subject ( 'stop time'), consider the subject in its context and describe its surroundings (again this can be realistic, fanciful or a combination of both).

The Track and Freeze approach can serve two functions:

1: As a free association tool it can help to find a subject for creative effort
2: It can help to list information about a subject (see attribute listing and profiling).

To track, I simply pick a subject (maybe with the help of Directed Free Association results) and follow the subject through time in my imagination. To freeze I stop the tracking and 'freeze time': I stop the time progression in order to list information about the space surrounding the subject. I can switch between the two approaches to quickly generate a lot of information about the subject or generate many possibilities for creative attention.

Example of Track and Freeze in use

Suppose I pick 'David Beckham' as a subject. I start out by Tracking him. I do this by visualising him and kind of 'fast forwarding' or 'rewinding' the image I have in my mind. I can go as far back in time as I like and I can write down any information I want that occurs to me during the Tracking. But in this example I opt to stop the Tracking at the point when David Beckham is about to kick off in a football match. Then I can either continue Tracking or apply Freeze. I opt to apply freeze and visualise the scene surrounding Beckham as he is about to kick off. There is a football, a referee, the referee's whistle, the grass on the pitch, the other players, the adverts on the side of the pitch, the fans, the stadium, the floodlights, the car park outside etc. (Of course there's no limit to how much information I can list - I could carry on listing ad infinitum.)

Now I can select something that I've listed during the Freeze and then opt to Track that. I could decide to Track David Beckham once again, but I choose to start Tracking the football. Tracking backwards I go as far as I want into the past: I could see the referee checking the ball to ensure it is inflated correctly, see the ball (and other balls) being transported to the ground, see the ball being manufactured etc. ad infinitum.

I can continue to switch between Track and Freeze and see what information results. There are no strict rules or any set order that should be followed.

It's obvious that this approach can be used either as a free association approach or to list information about a subject. The obvious question is "When is information listed relevant and when does it stop being relevant?" I don't believe there's a straightfoward answer to that. In the David Beckham example then obviously information about the ground, the players and the pitch are relevant but if I'd Tracked the referee back to saying 'goodbye' to his wife when he left for the ground would that be relevant? If the subject is David Beckham and I'm profiling him as the subject then I could always apply the referee information to him: thus I would visualise him saying his goodbyes when he left his own home.

Guessing: Guess-Track and Guess-Freeze

Guessing can play a role when using the Track and Freeze technique. When Guess-Tracking I can follow the subject into the past or into the future. When Guess-Freezing I can guess what is contained in the surroundings of the subject.

Also, as discussed in the guessing post, I can also introduce 'What if?' questions to my considerations and also challenge expectations and assumptions. If I Track David Beckham to the World Cup Final and challenge my expectations/assumptions then an initial assumption could be that David Beckham is participating in the first place. Maybe he could be injured or even retired?

Multiple Beginnings and Endings

If I am Tracking a subject then I can list multiple beginnings and endings of the subject as an aid to Tracking. So if I consider the David Beckham example I could consider multiple beginnings such as: the beginning of each football match he participates in, the beginning of his career at each of his clubs, the beginning of his footballing career, the beginning of his participation in the sport, his birth, his conception etc. If I consider multiple endings then I could consider the end of each match, the end of his contract at each club, the end of his footballing career, his death, the end of the fan's memories of his involvement etc. There is potentially no limit to the number of beginnings and endings that can be listed. If I opt to wander into the realms of 'What if?' I could ask myself "What if his career ended tomorrow?" etc.

Creativity technique: ZOA - Zone Of Attention

About this post

Type of technique: attention directing tool

Technique in a nutshell: imagine you have a three dimensional sphere that you can move around in space. This represents your attention during creative thinking. You can 'zoom in' on objects within the sphere.

Applying the Zone of Attention Zone of Attention

To apply the Zone of Attention technique, I imagine a transparent three-dimensional sphere in front of me. This represents my area of attention during creative thinking. The Zone of Attention also has a pinpoint to fine tune my focusing. I can visualise a Zone of Attention either on something I can directly see, or on a scene that I am visualising or recalling.

Actions on the Zone of Attention

I can carry out three changes on the Zone of Attention:

I can move the ZOA anywhere.
I can change the size of the ZOA.
I can move the Pinpoint within the ZOA.

Varying the size of the ZOA

I use the acronym WUMPP to remind me of my options when changing the size of the ZOA:

W = World
U = Universe
M = Mile
P = Person
P = Pinhead

I can, of course, change the ZOA to any size I like but the acronym helps me to remember (and use) the full extent of the sizing options.

Naming the Zone of Attention

(c) FreeFoto.comI can give the Zone of Attention a name. This helps when listing information about the contents of the ZOA and helps to avoid listing only the most obvious features within the zone. It also allows the ZOA to be considered as a concept in its own right. So if I am imagining an accident scene such as the one on the right I could name my chosen ZOA 'the accident zone'.

Including myself in the Zone of AttentionNow Here Me Doing: Brainstorming

At the start of any creative exercise I find it's a good idea to include myself in the initial Zone of Attention. This helps me to bring my awareness into the here-and-now and consider what my initial goals are during the creativity.

In words this present-moment awareness could be expressed as:

Now Here Me Doing: Brainstorming


Now Here Me Doing: Problem-solving


See also:

Book: Serious Creativity, Edward de Bono

Creative Guessing

About this post

Technique in a nutshell: name a subject (such as Mount Rushmore, for example) and try to guess what is happening to the subject now. Challenge your assumptions and expectations.

If I am doing any creative thinking exercise about a subject, there are probably three main activities I will be doing:

1: Recalling information about the subject using my own knowledge of the subject

2: Learning new knowledge about the subject (from books, the internet, other people etc.)

3: Creating ideas

However, I can also guess.

I'm surprised that there hasn't been more written about guessing in creative resources. Guessing is a great approach because:

A: It's good fun
B: You don't feel so much pressure to 'come up with a great idea'
C: It offers a different entry point and adds a different texture to creative thinking/brainstorming
D: It's a great work-out for the imagination


To use a guessing approach I pick a subject (perhaps from the results of Directed Association) and then set a directive such as:

Guess: what's happening at Mount Rushmore now

In answering this directive I am both creating and recalling my own knowledge about the subject.

More specific directives

If my guessing about Mount Rushmore led to thoughts about the guided tours (for tourists) for example, then I can set another more specific directive based on this information:

Guess: what happens on the Mount Rushmore tour

Other directives

Guess: what X is doing now

With this directive I will simply name a person (from Directed Association results) and guess what they are doing now.

Guess: what will be in the newspaper a year from now

Quite a weighty creative challenge that! This opens up many creative possibilities: I could guess what news stories will feature in a year, guess what sort of puzzles will be on the puzzle pages (perhaps based on existing puzzles used and new puzzles that I could create), guess what headlines will be on the sports pages, guess what sort of adverts feature in the newspaper, guess what television programmes will be listed (and perhaps make up a few entirely new concepts for shows) etc.

Guess: my diary entry for tomorrow (or this day in a month's or year's time etc)

This is a good one - it is almost as if I am creating a 'virtual day'. I can imagine that I keep thoroughly comprehensive notes about my day - perhaps keeping a record of events that occured in each ten minutes. I can then guess what entry would be made for each of these ten minute divisions.

Guess: contents of a documentary

In using this approach I can either look through the TV listings for the coming week and guess what will feature in any one of the listed documentaries, or I can choose a subject from Directed Association results and guess what would occur in a documentary on that subject.

Expectations and 'What if?'

I can add further texture to my guessing and give my imagination a good work-out by challenging my expectations/assumptions and asking 'What if?' questions.

So, for example, If I am guessing in response to the directive:

Guess: what's happening at Mount Rushmore now

I can consider what my expectations and assumptions are. I can consider my mind's initial visual representation of Mount Rushmore and then challenge this representation. Perhaps my first assumption is that Mount Rushmore is there at all! Perhaps the mountain had crumbled or had been defaced by demonstrators (two good ones for 'guess: what will be in the newspaper a year from now' perhaps).

Asking 'What if?' can lead to similar results. I could generate a 'What if?' question such as: 'What if there are no Mount Rushmore tours today?' (perhaps there could be a terror alert or the weather is so bad that the Mountain isn't visible) or 'What if the tour is being carried out by an ex-president?' etc.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Various Ideas: November

I've just completed the July and September Ideas posts.. Let me know what you think!

November general ideas

Cool Blog Of The Day (Has this been done yet?)

Fame convention. This would be a charity event. Quite simply it would be a room full of famous people. Visitors would be able to chat to them and, most importantly, pay money for autographs and merchandise.

When foreign films have subtitles (at the cinema and on TV) instead of the translation being at the bottom of the screen the words could appear in speech bubbles.

A means to phone someone your email address. You would enter a prefix number before their phone number and their phone would receive an automated message telling them the email address.

Article idea: top ten most repeated TV shows.

Twin premieres: in addition to the glitzy film premieres there could be a simultaneous premiere at a specially selected cinema.

Massive premieres: a film premiere could be shown for free in Hyde Park to an audience of thousands. All in the name of publicity of course...

Joke boxes at cinemas: there could be a video joke box in the foyers of cinemas where filmgoers can tell jokes. These jokes would be aired before the film in addition to trailers and adverts.

A golf driving range by the side of a river?

"Song playing now" screens in nightclubs and pubs. Or a free juke box that works by votes: each clubber can pick ten songs they would like to hear on the night. The songs with the most votes are played. (Maybe the really popular ones would be played twice.)

I'd like to see big football clubs hold a lottery where fans can win a place in starting line up for some matches. This could apply to two types of matches:

When a club has already won the league championship and still have games left to play.
When a club has already qualified from their European group but still have a game to play.

A modern artwork in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry that depicts contemporary events.

TV show ideas

A compilation show of every English football goal ever. (Would be possible for other sports.)

Family Fortunes - after dark episode. With adult questions.

'Out of retirement' show: would feature entertainers and comedians invited to come out of retirement for one evening.

Various Fiction Ideas

A machine that can make ghosts materialise.

A simple test carried out on unborn babies that detects psychic people.

A simple test carried out on unborn babies that can measure intelligence. There could be controversey with abortions etc.

A means to remove a concept from the brain of an individual - such as the concept of fear or the fear of death.

A curse: a man is cursed so that every time he is about to bite into a piece of meat he sees the animal dying. Also when he starts a bonfire he sees (in close up) all the animals that are dying in the fire - including ants and a hedgehog. He could also see a log of all the animals he has directly or indirectly killed in his life.

A man who meets a genii (or other magical character) who allows him to view his whole life. The genii stops the viewing at certain points and allows the man to go back in time and possess himself as a youngster and change the decisions/behaviour he made back then. He gets ten minutes to do this and then the genii brings him back to the present but... he gets to see how a split second change of behaviour back then would have radically changed his present life.

A hypnotherapist devises an approach for people bored in their jobs. He invents a type of hypnosis so that the person will experience their workday as sleep (they will have no conscious recollection of the day) but they function normally. One man 'wakes up' at five o'clock in the office toilet with his clothes ripped and his face bruised. Everyone is looking for him. He even sees himself on TV as 'most wanted'. He has to piece together what happened that day.

Possibilities for the Global Ideas Bank

One phone number (and a centralised switchboard) for helplines (such as Samaritans, Childline etc).

A means (probably a device) to make the heartbeat audible in nervewracking situations such as the driving test. Would be optional. Would mean that no pretence about being confident would be necessary and the examiner would know that the participant is nervous and be able to reassure them. Perhaps a biofeedback effect would occur too helping the participant to calm their nerves. (Idea could be applicable to dentists?)

A means to contact all mobiles within a specified area - by text or by actual call. Could be useful for police to alert people in accident areas or could be used as a crime prevention tool to alert people to look for suspects.

Thought experiments

What if: everywhere you walk you leave footprints?
What if: people could identify the person who left the footprints?
What if: someone found a way to compress water?

Thoughts on creativity and problem solving

Forced limitations in problem solving: how to solve a problem without moving?