Saturday, November 19, 2005

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.

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