Sunday, January 15, 2006

Five sources of random words

Sources of random words for random stimulation:

Dictionary (see Lateral Thinking or Serious Creativity by Edward de Bono)
Pangram trigger
Directed free-association results
Flip-flop directed-association results
Three speedy free-association techniques

Reverse-reach technique

About this post

Technique in a nutshell: pick a subject and imagine a directive that could have made you give that subject as a response. Use the directive to create further responses.

Example: Subject = dog. Directive = 'Name a household pet'. Response = goldfish.


The reverse-reach technique can be used:

1) As a free association method
2) In conjunction with other free association methods (perhaps to produce a list of random words)
3) To generate a list of possible subjects for creative effort
4) To step up a concept level

Using the technique

To start out I choose a subject. At the moment (15th Jan 2006) I am considering the Olympic games, so I will choose the Olympics as my starting subject. Thus:

Subject = Olympics

To effect a reverse-reach is simple: I imagine a directive that someone could have posed that made me give 'the Olympics' as an answer. Perhaps:

Name a worldwide event

At the next point I forget about the Olympics and list other possible answers to the directive 'Name a worldwide event':

The World Cup
Global pandemic
The black plague
The winter Olympics

Then I choose one from the list and apply reverse-reach again. So if I choose 'black plague' my reverse-reach directive could be:

Name a historic tragedy

I can opt to work to a quota. So a quota of five could result in these extra reverse-reach directives for 'black plague':

Name a serious illness
Name a fatal disease
Name a London 1666 event
Name a potential peril

I generally use two words but often I will use more. So for 'black plague':

Name a potential future peril
Name an infamous London historic event
Name an event that inspired a nursery rhyme
Name something you don't want
Name something with the initials 'BP'

Example of reverse-reach

Subject = football. RR = 'Name a ball sport' = tennis. RR = 'Name something that uses a net' = trapeze act. RR = 'Name a circus act' = lion tamer. RR = 'Name an unusual job' = human statue. RR = 'Name a street entertainment' = find the lady. RR = 'Name a money scam' = phishing etc.

Avoiding the predictable

I've added this extra element to be absolutely sure I avoid the habit of becoming lazy in the formation of my reverse-reach. I choose a random word, then pick two letters and force myself to construct a reverse-reach directive using words starting with those letters.

So, with the Olympics as an example, I could pick the random word 'argue'. From that word I choose the letters 'A' and 'G'. My template for the Olympics reverse-reach directive will read:

Name an A G

I now have to choose words that would result in the answer 'Olympics'. Thus:

Name an athletics games
Name an Athens germ
Name an archery gathering
Name an audience grabber
Name an anabolic goader (?!)