Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A million to one shot...or two

What if...there was a bookmakers where every bet available offered odds of one million to one?

That would be quite an interesting concept for an online gambling site; maybe someone's already done it somewhere. I've been thinking of some of the million to one bets they could offer:

A centenarian climbs Everest and reaches the summit
Any one person wins the lottery jackpot over two successive weeks
The highest selling artwork of the year is by a living artist
The Premier League football teams finish in alphabetical order
Stonehenge is stolen
A cloned racehorse wins the Epsom Derby
The Queen releases a song called "God save the Sex Pistols"

Nice. If you'd like to tune your powers of prediction then Long Bets is worth a look. Here's some of the predictions that feature:

By 2020, bioterror or bioerror will lead to one million casualties in a single event

By 2050, we will receive intelligent signals from outside our solar system.

By 2050 no synthetic computer nor machine intelligence will have become truly self-aware

By the year 2150, over 50% of schools in the USA or Western Europe will require classes in defending against robot attacks

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sentence Writing: Start by taking a random word and spend ten minutes writing sentences that can be about anything as long as they contain that word. When the time is up, review the sentences and use some of them to trigger absurd solutions to your problem.

From: IdeaFlow Compendium of Idea Generation Methods

Could be used with rubberducking technique, perhaps?

Ing-est: another technique for listing information about a subject

If I am considering a subject the ing-est technique is a quick technique for directing attention and listing information. With this technique I spot an action that is occurring to the highest degree.

For example, say my creative subject is: the Olympics. I use the format:

What's (action) est?

I choose an action - say, blowing, and insert that into the format thus:

What's blowing-est?

Which means: what is blowing the most?

Possible answers: the Olympic flame, flags, the wind, the javelin as it flies through the air, etc.


I can also use the method to list people. This time my question takes the format:

Who's (action) est?

So, with the Olympics example, I can choose an action and insert this in the format:

Who's shouting-est?

Possible answers: a patriotic fan, a coach, an athlete shouting as they win an event etc.

The superlative's superlative

As I go about my daily business I like to nurture a creative attitude - I'll spot problems, ask 'What if?' and be aware of the here-and-now. With such an array of creative techniques available to help think creatively it's possible to suffer from a kind of 'option blindness' -- or paralysis by analysis, like the centipede that doesn't know which leg to move next. The superlative's superlative is a great entry point for creativity and a simple way to set a creative challenge and get the thoughts rolling.


Aware of the here-and-now I'll consider an object near me or an action I'm doing at the time. With an object, I consider how I could make that object or action into the superlative/ultimate form. So if I was opening a door I could set the challenge in the format:

Make the door the door-est door.

This can be provoke many questions and lead me to consider what the ultimate door (the door-est door) would be like and how it would be defined...

The greatest door? The most efficient door? The largest door? The door that can be used 24/7? The door that can be used by the most people? The most famous door? The door most universally recognised as a door? A door that recognises people who shouldn't use the door and thus automatically locks itself? If I choose one of these possibilities (say, the most efficient door) I can consider how I would go about realising that goal.


I can also use the technique for actions. So if I'm in discussion with someone I can set a challenge in the format:

Make the discussion the discussion-est discussion.

If a discussion was the ultimate, perfect discussion what would it be like? Super efficient? Super problem-solving? Super honest and free from hidden-agendas?

See also: Fiction: a quick way to make up interesting characters

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Fiction: a quick way to make up interesting characters

A man is sitting on a plane next to a young girl. As the flight progresses and he talks to the girl he realises that she is a profoundly perceptive psychologist; she can read body language, read people's motives and offer wise advice beyond her years.

I wanted to devise a simply strategy to make up interesting characters like the girl. Ideas such as the one above can be created with a format such as:

The girl is the psychologistEST psychologist.

Which implies that the girl is (or becomes) the best psychologist imaginable. I can also imagine that the girl started out as an ordinary girl and is on the journey towards become the 'psychologistEST psychologist'.

It's a thought provoking technique and encourages the use of the imagination: what would someone be like if they were the best psychologist imaginable? Would they possess abilities that could be considered 'beyond human'? What would the limit be if I continued to increase the degree of her psychological powers? Maybe her powers would stretch across the universe and last eternally. Even when I have reached what I consider to be an absolute point I can continue to increase the degree of her powers.

Format applied to the male passenger

I want to apply the format to the male passenger. To do this I simply name someone (I use the naming/listing technique) state what that person is, and then apply that description in the format. Example: my use of the naming/listing technique gives me Evil Knievel. What is that person?

Evil Knievel = daredevil.

So using that in the format gives me:

Male passenger is the daredevilEST daredevil.

What would the 'daredevilEST daredevil' be like? Perhaps the man would be doing 'dangerous' things all the time. Everything he does could be an interesting stunt. Even as he goes about his daily business he could be doing amazingly creative stunts. Or maybe his full time job would be as a stuntman.

Other example possibilities

Character is musicianEST musician
Character is comedianEST comedian
Character is con manEST con man
Character is corpseEST corpse
Character is vagrantEST vagrant

See also: the superlative's superlative

Thoughts on 'What if?' questions

I think there are two main types of 'What if?' questions. The creative, fanciful WI? questions and the WI? question that considers problems and even worst-case scenarios.

Creative WI? questions

What if...there was a million pound limit on personal wealth?
What if...there was one day a year when cars are illegal?
What if...all the Earth's water turned green?
What if...all the herbivores became carnivores and vice versa?
What if...people could converse only in song?

Problem WI? questions

What if...I was the only one that turns up for work tomorrow?
What if...all my possessions and money were stolen?
What if...I was arrested?
What if...I suffered from amnesia?
What if...all my family moved abroad?

However, I also like to create 'thinking the unthinkable' WI questions.

Thinking-the-unthinkable WI? questions

What if...I gave away all my money?
What if...I stopped washing?
What if...I tried to start a fight with everyone I meet?
What if...I started espousing everything I hate?
What if...I changed my name to Elvis Presley?

There are some good WI questions on this Innovation Tools article by Scott Ginsberg.

Thoughts on...create-as-you-go fiction.

As part of my fiction project I've been tinkering with this 'create-as-you-go' fiction approach. Imagine a story-writing 'impossible ideal' where everything is being created as the story progresses: as a character enters his house a new concept in housing (or perhaps type of house) is created. As he eats a snack a new type of eating is created and also a totally new type of food. As he walks to leave his house, he himself is created as a new type of human - perhaps with giant legs, or one that doesn't need to breathe.

I've been using the technique discussed in the defining and texturing listing activities post. Suppose a 'baddie' decides to chase me for whatever reason. I start to run. At this point I create a new type of running:

Create 'chin running'

I let my imagination run riot to define this new type of running known as 'chin running':

As I run my chin always drags along the floor
I can only run towards the nearest chin
I propel myself forwards with my chin

What are the consequences of my chin dragging on the floor as I run? Perhaps:

The baddie stares with disbelief
My chin bleeds
Passers-by stare

If I choose 'passers-by stare' as the next development I can then create a new type of staring:

Create 'drug staring'

Which could mean:

When they stare at something unusual they become high
When they stare they can tell if someone has taken drugs
When they stare drugs pop out of their mouth

Benefits and uses

Any specific uses for this approach? Not yet. But I'm thinking that there could be a 'create-as-you-go' everyday creativity where I would adopt a specific creative mind set as I go about my daily business and this could help me to nurture the habit of a having creative/innovative attitude. Time will tell. Good fun though.

Using adverbs to help write information about a subject

Adverbs and adverbial phrases can be used with 'prompter questions' to quickly create a list of information about a particular subject. Say, for example, my subject is 'Live8'. My prompter question is in the format:

What's done...(adverb)?

Using the techniques from the Listing Adverbs and Adverbial phrases post I list the following adverbs/phrases:

in the air, with eggs, secretly.

My first question thus reads:

At Live8, what's done in the air?

Possible answers: the airship/helicopters filming the event. Throwing something into the crowd. Waving hands in air.

My second question reads:

At Live8, what's done with eggs?

Possible answers: feeding the performers and stage staff. Throwing eggs at bad acts (!)

And the third thus:

What's done secretly?

Possible answers: smuggling in surprise guests, counting the money collected on the day, big stars leaving the arena.

Cyclical approach

I can use the information listed to list more adverbs. The question "What's done secretly?" led to the answer "big stars leaving the arena". I can now consider adverbs (or adverbial phrases) that fit the action of big stars leaving the arena. For example:

Big stars leaving the arena is done: in a limo, at the end, with bodyguards etc.

I can pick one of these adverbs ('at the end') to form another prompter question:

At Live8, what's done at the end?

Possible answers: the grand finale, the goodbye, crowd dispersion, the big clean up, a final collection at the exits etc.


I've found that using this approach can trigger ideas with very little creative effort:

Listing 'throwing eggs at bad acts' led to the idea of doing a comedic Live8 with bad acts such as those who failed in X Factor shows, or groups that released awful records.

Asking 'What's done with regret?' resulted in the answer 'Stars of the 1985 Live Aid watching the show at home sorry about not being included'. This led to the idea of a Live8 that would feature the acts of 1985 who didn't feature at 2005.

Creativity at the blank page stage: finding subjects for creative attention

If I have my creative-generalist hat on and I am staring at a blank page without any initial idea of my creative direction I can use this technique to find a subject. I start with a directive in the format:

Name an X

then pick a random word to complete this directive:

Name a card.

From this point I can name as many cards as I can (perhaps setting a quota) or I can define/texture the directive with a random word. So with the random word 'water' used as an adjective my directive now reads:

Name a water card

This makes me think of:

Greetings cards with an astrological theme featuring the 'water' signs.
Plastic postcards of Tower Bridge that literally contain some Thames water.
The card shown by a water authority person to prove their identity.
The ESP card with a squiggly line.

All potentially interesting subjects for creativity.

Defining/texturing listing activities

At various stages of creativity, when I am making a list of any kind I can opt to define/texture the listing activity by using adjectives (and words/phrases that function as adjectives).

So, for example, if I am listing information about a subject (say, the Olympics) I can state my directive as:

List information about the Olympics

and then define/texture the listing by using adjectives and words/phrases that function as adjectives:

List arrival information about the Olympics
List likely to amaze information about the Olympics.

(The first could suggest: the opening ceremony, flights into the country, order of arrival of events etc. The second could suggest: the records, the outstanding athletes, the distance traveled by the torch etc.)

Various stages of creative thinking

Listing information

The defining/texturing approach can be used when listing information about a subject. The defining/texturing templates for this would read as:

List X information
List X facts
List X problems
List X ideas
List X rules (with a view to breaking them)

Creating ideas

At the creative stage the defining/texturing templates would read thus:

Create X idea
Create X 'What if?' (See 'What if?' post)

Movement and using 'What if?' questions

If am using lateral thinking provocations or 'What if?' questions for thought experiments, I can use the defining/texturing approach to help list consequences, benefits, and the circumstances when the thought experiment would be beneficial. Thus the templates for this read:

List X consequences
List X benefits
List X circumstances when idea is beneficial

Listing Assumptions

I can use the defining/texturing approach to help list assumptions about a subject. So, if I my subject is the Olympics and I use the defining/texturing template "List X assumptions about the Olympics" a possible final directive could read thus:

List Simon assumptions about the Olympics

and a possible assumption listed could be: I assume that people called Simon are allowed at the Olympics.

Taking concepts from the defining/texturing directive

I can opt to lift (or create) a concept directly from the defining/texturing template. So if a directive was:

List scientific information about the Olympics

I can forget about naming a specific example of scientific information and just use 'scientific information' as a concept in itself. I can create a word from this if I like such as "sci-info".

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

My Global Ideas Bank Ideas

Here are my 143 ideas from the Global Ideas Bank, with their latest ratings. I still have loads to send but time isn't being too kind at the moment. My goal is to be able to devise specific solutions for specific problems in specific target areas: eg "10 ideas for improving driving safety".

The Global Ideas Bank is an international suggestion-box for social inventions.

A person in each street to take in parcel deliveries

A facility on computers to record all on-screen events

A monthly compilation of new ideas from all ideas sites

Motoring endorsements clearly displayed on cars

Chasing the 'impossible ideal' of 'exhaustive information available universally' to create ideas

'Experiments in the day' to nurture creative attitudes

'X-versions' for development of idea germs

Traffic police 'special' constables

Replicas of displayed books at British Library

The Rubbish Lottery: every disposable package is a 'lottery ticket'

The 'down the back of the sofa' charity fundraising day

Cloning Aspects: a simple technique for generating new ideas

Public vote to choose Olympic's new sport

Sports centres arrange ongoing team sports open to all

Peripheral hearing: a method to find inspiration when composing music

Peripheral Viewing: harnessing peripheral vision as a creative tool.

A 'Hall of Fame' for each town

Regions of space named after the departed

Lifts that access ground floor and top floor only

Learning a new language by gradually replacing words as you surf

Some suggestions, ideas and possibilities for the Global Ideas Bank

A yearly target for tsunami fundraising

GIB Newslink

Slides as well as stairs and escalators at underground stations

Students study self-help books in addition to the classics

A 'Mind Map of links' option above websites' links

Autograph grouping - an easy way to raise considerable funds

A 'who would you vote for if you thought they could win' vote in elections

A London cycling marathon

Crash vehicles at accident hotspots

Hoax emergency calls recorded and played at local schools

Train safety information available on website

The Voice: a centralised, one-stop website for the distribution of public opinion, letters and complaints

An MOT for computers at a PC 'clinic'

A replica of Stonehenge in a London park

A centralised 'password forgotten' webiste

Damaged areas of warzones preserved for education

Double-priced lottery one week per year for charity funding

Computer error messages contain links to website

An interview with a senior royal each Christmas

Detonate surplus nuclear weapons to attract ET

A charities' charity that promotes and raises funds

A section of seats in TV studio audiences auctioned for charity projects

Three ideas for Yellow Pages to improve

Text message reminders to mobiles on train's 'quiet' carriage

Double priced seats on transport for urgent travel

Supermarkets deliver goods to local newsagents

Tax benefits for children who reach eighteen without a criminal record

Centralised crowding information

A 'non-movement' ISP to stop chat room use

Colour-coded petrol pumps and petrol caps

Small charity donations possible when cash point is used

A quick-stop parking meter in each street

A second tier of the Olympics

Pre-register with emergency services for speed

A website with ten seconds of every song

Residences for the Queen and Prime Minister in other cities

An insurance company for drivers with a clean licence.

Newsagents to keep unsold supplements to sell

Cinemas show first ten minutes of another film.

Real prizes - rather than money - offered in lottery

Web astronomy guide

The 'Museum of museums' in cities

Crowds and queuing at theme parks: three ideas

Students can sit exams in pollen-free environment

Two 'twins' for each newborn baby.

Speed cameras to check whether seatbelts worn

International vote to choose host of Olympics

A unique third name for each citizen

A website showing content of that day's papers

A compilation of all restaurant menus in your area

A webpage for each news programme providing explanations/definitions

Phone call required to complete registration for chat rooms

Reminders service via e-mail

School lessons recorded on webcam for pupils to review at home

A call from your mobile required to start your car.

A ship that acts as a mobile pier

1472 - a slight change to 1471

A website for asking the Prime Minister questions at Question Time

Testing schools by subsequent unemployment rate of pupils

A free patent for each citizen

Songs made available for all artists to cover and interpret

Selling of coverless books to reduce costs

An 'Other Applications' suggestion area

Careers choices - choosing 'emulation' rather than a career title

'Star Newcomer' of the week on the Global Ideas Bank

Email/Text alerts for astronomical phenomena

An 'Anyone Reunited' website to find people from the past

A "possible contacts" feature on the Global Ideas Bank

Minor crimes picked randomly and treated as serious crimes

A webpage for each rail station in cities

Cinemas to show football matches

Drive-hire scheme for parking

Car horns broadcast to other cars to prevent sleep at the wheel.

A dashboard speedometer that reflects onto the windscreen

A countdown for each change at traffic lights.

A facility on search-engines to register your search

Three ideas for safer boxing

A scheme where you agree to double fine if caught speeding

Abridgement of books by colour- coding

A webpage for each library book

A daily time-capsule made with contents of the web

Cycle and motorcycle lights to be different from other vehicles

A travelling museum that opens a town's interesting places to the public

Speed camera has ‘report to station’ flash or ‘instant ban’ flash.

A weekly e-mail expressing willingness to be an organ donor

A second tier of 999 centres to eliminate 'time wasting' calls

A second emergency number that alerts your family and friends

London's treasures to tour the country

A facility on PCs that contacts the emergency services instantly

An alternative layout in books

Local Crimewatch - e-mailed pictures of people wanted locally

An 'instant cancel' phone number for credit cards

A laser projected onto running tracks to show record-breaking pace

Matching people by their internet bookmarks / favourites

A 999 prefix option for quicker connection to appropriate service

A centralised database of war memorials

A website directory of all the second hand books for sale in libraries

Olympic flag has sixth ring to represent the Paralympics

Register a 'lifetime' vote in elections

A project to make great ships seaworthy again

A 'Tree Quota' for each square mile.

A directory of problems on the Global Ideas Bank

A public vote to choose the faces on banknotes

Visible display to show rate of electricity use

A scheme to auction off a place in every movie made

A new flag to represent the world

Fooball players' bans measured in half-bans instead of whole game bans

Shadow Books: expansion of books through the internet.

Night schools provide video sample of first lesson of courses

999 ambulance centres alert first-aiders near accident scene

Nightclubs: deposit on entry to encourage good behaviour and ensure safe travel home

Local football clubs to use their pitch as driving ranges during closed season

Advertising on bank notes to raise money for charities

Phone-number email addresses to make everyone contactable by email

A webpage for every prescription drug for information and patient discussions

Boot sales - central place for selling of CD's and books.

Lottery entry slips - tick box for 10% to charity

Charity wishing wells in shopping centres

Pop charts for different age groups

Reduced tax on petrol for those with clean driving licence

TV tobacco advertising money to go to charity

Bibliographies in works of fiction to show author's influences

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A quick way to capture key facts about a subject

If I am considering a subject - say, cats - I can improve my listing of key facts and information about cats by making the subject into a verb. Thus:

Cat does: catting

What this new verb - catting - does is remind me and help me to capture the activities that reflect the essence of 'catness'. So:

Catting = washing, sleeping, eating food, purring, being a good pet, chasing birds, fighting, mewing etc.

Cat as the object

I can also make the cat into an object - the receiver of the action. This is in the format: action/ noun. Thus:

Catting the cat

Again this helps me to list the key actions that are carried out on a cat. Thus:

Stroking, feeding, patting, taking to the vets, dragging off birds, attacking (by other cats), calling etc.

A complete sentence

I can take a word stem and make a sentence using that stem. So, if I am writing a story that involved a killing, I can create the stem 'kill' and then make a sentence using that stem:

Killer killing the killable

This helps me to list and develop the most important information. I can also use the stem to add adverbs (and/or adjectives):

Killer killing the killable killingly.

Refining and developing ideas by adding adverbs

Adverbs can be added to ideas to suggest ways to refine and develop ideas. With the following Global Ideas Bank idea:

Lottery entry slips - tick box for 10% to charity

I can add an appendage to the idea:

is done...X

Next I find some adverbs (and/or adverbial phrases) for the 'X'. Here are some possibilities:

Idea is done...prehistorically
Idea is done...in the dark
Idea is done...inquisitively
Idea is done...for tourists

Next I consider each one and see if any ideas come about.

Idea is done...prehistorically

This initially suggests that past winners could volunteer ten per cent of their winnings. Not likely to happen. What if the idea was enforced? The lottery is relatively new in the UK so it wouldn't be possible to track winners further back than ten years 'to prehistoric times'. However, there were other possibilities to win money such as the Pools and Premium Bonds before the lottery. This leads to the idea that ten per cent idea could be applied to the Pools and Premium Bonds.

Idea is done...in the dark

If a lottery slip were filled out in the dark the direct consequence is that the person wouldn't know if they'd ticked the ten per cent box properly. This gives me an idea: maybe a random element could be introduced; the lottery player would 'gamble' and agree that up to fifty per cent of their winnings could go to charity.

Idea is done...inquisitively

There could be an 'inquisitive' TV documentary that explores the direct effect the new income would have on a specific charity. Or there could be a 'inquisitive' study into what goes through a person's mind when they are ticking the box. This leads to the idea that the person could specify which charity they'd like to receive the funds.

Idea is done...for tourists

I'm not sure if tourists are allowed to play the UK lottery. Would this be for tax reasons? If this was the case then a new box could be added that is ticked by tourists that states that they agree to a percentage of their winnings being used to pay tax and thus avoid problems.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Some things I want to do

Problem Finding

In his book The Power of Innovation, Min Basadur discusses problem finding and improving the skill of problem finding: "You can develop your ability to sense problems and to seek out opportunities just as you can hone any other skill".

He provides a list of 'prompter questions' used to trigger the process of finding problems. There are three categories: Sensing the present, Anticipating the future, and Personal problem finding.


Sensing the present: What are your most difficult people problems? What is likely to cause your next crisis?

Anticipating the future: What information would simplify your job? What might cause your valued employees to leave?

Personal problem finding: What changes do you feel you need to make? What makes you worry?

What I would like to do is devise strategies that help to create such prompter questions like the ones above. I would guess there are two types of people: those who prefer the creative challenge of creating a comprehensive list of prompter questions from scratch, and those that would prefer to use a ready-made list. I'm sure it's possible that strategies could create an exhaustive list and the strategies could be used by others to add to the list. Maybe a blog or website of prompter questions could be created?

Far Side style cartoons

For many years I've been trying to work out systematic techniques to create cartoons - particularly those in the style of Gary Larson's Far Side. For a while I tried to work out techniques for creating a starting context - that is, the scenario that occurs before anything funny happens. What I've considered lately is that these scenarios could be created quickly by drawing a giant image that represents all the major parts - characters, places, key items, events - of a movie. Many of the Far Side cartoons have themes that could easily be found within movies.

Double representation:

I could select any area of the giant image and that would provide a context. Then I would apply double representation: I would consider the activities of that image in both image form and as a real life event. So, for example, if there were a dog in an image I could apply some creative techniques to change the image. I could depict a giant weight on a dog's head, for example. Then, I would switch to the real-life representation and consider the consequences of a dog actually having a weight on its head in real life. I would continue switching between both representations, making small changes with creativity tools. Gradually the contents of the image would develop and evolve and hopefully something interesting (or even funny) would eventually result.

'Must' commentaries for creative challenges

I've been experimenting with this 'must commentary' approach to creativity. I'm posting to see if anyone can bounce back any thoughts or ideas.

The must commentary

With this approach, I consider an activity - such as posting a Christmas card through someone's door - and run through the stages visually in my mind. As I go, I apply a 'commentary' in the format:

I have to...

So with the activity of posting a Christmas card the commentary could read:

1) I have to watch out for cars
2) I have to cross the road
3) I have to walk down the pavement
4) I have to spot my friend's house
5) I have to open the gate
6) I have to walk up the pathway
7) I have to open the letter box
8) I have to push the letter in
9) I have to walk down the pathway
10) I have to close the gate

I can also consider the ultimate outcome of all these actions: my friend gets a Christmas card.

Enforced limitation

At the next stage I consider how I could still achieve my objective if one of the stages were prohibited. So if action 6: walk up the pathway is prohibited how can I achieve the next stage - section 7 - of opening the letter box? Or alternatively, is action 6 is prohibited, how will I achieve the final outcome: my friend receives a Christmas card?

So far I've found that experiment with this technique can be very thought provoking and stimulating. The considerations from the above scenario actually led to a concrete idea I submitted to the Global Ideas Bank:

A person in each street to take in parcel deliveries

Refining the commentaries

Something I want to look into soon is refining the commentaries. So with the Christmas card example I could create a 'hand must commentary' where I would state the mandatory actions of my hand during the posting of the card. There are obviously endless possibilities for developing this approach.

Thoughts on X-versions

See also: X-versions post.

This is a well-known 'game', where the lady drops through the air and hits bubbles as she falls. There's also a George Bush version, where GB falls instead of the lady. The George Bush version could be described as the 'Bush-version'. It's possible to think of more variations on the same theme by taking the template:

X-version of game

and picking random words for the 'X':

Blair version, Baby version, Blood version (where, perhaps, the person would be physically injured as they fall), Alien version, Crowd version (where several people would fall)

The original as an X-version

I can consider the original to be an X-version. I can make a list of words or phrases with an adjectival function that accurately describe the original version:

Original is a:

Blue version, Fall version, Bubble version, Silent version, Human version, Internet version

With these adjectival words written down it becomes much easier to think of alternatives. I can start with opposites, or I can consider related words:

Blue version: Green version, Red version
Fall version: Flying up version, Shot-from-a-cannon version
Bubble version: Square-bubble version, Football version
Silent version: Realistic-sound-effect version
Human version: Animal version, Skeleton version
Internet version: Real-life-model version, Screensaver version

and then allow a little interpretation or imagination:

Blue version: Naked version
Fall version: Falling-onto-explosive-'mine'-bubbles version
Silent version: Expletive version (where the person shouts expletives or 'ouches' as they hit bubbles)
Human version: Angel version (where they fly up)
Internet version: Accurate version (that shows what would actually happen to a human body with those forces applied)

Thoughts on optical illusions

Have you seen this optical illusion? The image can interpreted either as a red Indian or an Eskimo entering a cave. I got to thinking on how you could make up optical illusions like that. Perhaps you could access a page of random Google images and turn down the monitor's brightness and contrast to a very low level. You would try to recognise the contents of each image you see - and maybe even draw a quick sketch. Then you would turn up the brightness and contrast levels to normal and see how you were wrong. Perhaps - if you can draw well - between your incorrect image and the correct image you could draw an image that could be interpreted as both.

Similar illusions

Scary, Liar, Ships, Birds, Skull

And here's another one I like - it forms a different picture if you view it upside-down.

Sentence restructuring

I have been using these sentence restructuring techniques semi-automatically for a number of years, so I thought I would try to formalise the techniques in a blog post.

Focus word

If I write a simple sentence:

The Olympics has medals for winners

then the final word - winners - could be considered as a focus word, the word which, when I'm thinking creatively, is the main focus of attention. I can consider alternatives for the focus word to help write more information about the the Olympics:

The Olympics has medals for: winners, second place, great achievement, third place etc.

It's important to differentiate between the action of writing existing facts (as above) and the action of creating ideas. I can indicate 'creative mode' by writing the sentence in blue:

The Olympics has medals for winners

and I can now consider creative alternatives for the focus word 'winners':

The Olympics has medals for: loyal fans, fourth place, trainers, legends from the past, every competitor etc

Changing the focus word

I can change the focus word by choosing a new word from the sentence and rearranging the sentence so that the chosen word becomes the last word. So if I choose 'medals' then the rearranged sentence reads thus:

For winners, the Olympics has medals

As this is 'writing-information mode' I can continue with the listing of information:

For winners, the Olympics has: medals, kudos, interviews, lap of honour, appreciation, flowers etc.

If I switch to the creative mode I can start to create ideas:

For winners, the Olympics has: a text message from their country's leader, a 'visitor's book', a 'virtual lap of honour' (published on the net), blogs, a vote to choose the 'competitor's competitor' of the games - all the winners vote for the athlete they think has been most outstanding. The winner receives a platinum medal

Spaces for the focus word

I can insert spaces either side of the focus word to help suggest new information or ideas. Using the original sentence, this reads thus:

The Olympics has medals for _ winners _

and (if in creative mode) I can insert a random word into either space to suggest ideas. I can also choose a word from the following category headings:

Time (Duration), Place (Area), Thing, Object, Person, Activity

and insert that into either space. In creative mode I opt to insert 'person':

The Olympics has medals for _ winner's person

Which alone may be enough to trigger ideas (there could be a medal for the winner's coach) or I can choose to specify the person - perhaps with a technique such as naming/listing people.

Splitting the focus word

I can opt to split the focus word. I have two options: I can either define the focus word or step up the concept level.

With the sentence:

There are medals for winners at the Olympics

I can define the Olympics and include that in the sentence thus:

There are medals for winners at the...World's greatest sporting event.

If I opt to step up the concept level my new sentence could read:

There are medals for winners at the...sporting spectacle.

With the latter approach I can switch my subject of creativity by defining various sporting spectacles. This could result in a sentence such as:

There are medals for winners at the...Football World Cup.

Deleting the focus word

I can opt to delete the focus word. With the sentence:

There are medals for winners at the Olympics

I can delete 'Olympics' and 'the' becomes the new focus word. I can continue deleting more words until I am left with:

There are medals.

Here I have 'killed' the subject of the Olympics I can switch my creative subject. Example:

There are medals for heroic soldiers.

Example of the technique using an existing idea

With the Global Ideas Bank idea: Text alerts for astronomical phenomena

I can make 'text alerts' the focus word(s):

For astronical phenomena there are text alerts.

Then in information-listing mode I can list possible alternatives:

For astronomical phenomenon there are: experts, books, regions of sky, programmes, star charts.

and in creative mode:

For astronomical phenomenon there are: local observatories, calendars, fan clubs, university degrees, an octa-style rating to compare annually occurring events (such as the Leonids).

With the original sentence I can make 'astronomical' the focus word:

Text alerts for phenomenon that are astronomical

and then switch to creative mode. Choosing the random word 'local' gives:

Text alerts for phenomenon that are: local

Which suggest that people who see anything unusual and interesting can text people in the locality. (There are also possibilities for crime prevention.)

If I continue deleting the focus words until I am left with this stem:

Text alerts for:

I can either add random words or use the category headings: Time (Duration), Place (Area), Thing, Object, Person, Activity. I choose the random word 'doctor' and in creative mode this results in:

Text alerts for: doctors

This quickly directed my attention to a problem experienced by many doctors: people failing to attend. People living near the surgery waiting for appointments could register for a scheme where they are sent a text message if a patient has defaulted.

Babel Fish Double Translation

I was reading about a writer who would type random nonsense on his computer without making any attempt to make proper words. He would then run the nonsense through his spellcheck to see what words were suggested. With that thought in mind I devised this little trick with AltaVista's Babel Fish. It's not unlike the Thesaurus Browsing technique:

I take a section of English text and convert it into a foreign text. Then I copy&paste that foreign text and convert it back into English. A useful technique for providing creative insights or just a bit of fun? Hmmm.

Here's some examples using my blog profile's 'About me':

English to German back to English:

What is the large idea? The large idea is a systematic method for the letter of of invention. The large idea is also the large goal. As I me endeavor to achieve my goal I, plan you many techniques, which I divide here. If I achieve my goal, I have a fine manual in each possible arena to use the creativity techniques.

English to Greek back to English:

What the big idea? The big idea is a systematic method for the novel writing. The big idea is also the big objective. Since I try to achieve my objective I devise a lot of techniques that I am shared here. When I achieve my objective I will have a thin epitome of techniques of creativity that uses in anyone space.

English to Dutch back to English:

What is the large idea? Idea of large is a systematic method write fiction. Idea of large is also the large aim. To reach strives for my aim of since I consider at I a lot of techniques matrix I here share. Aim of when I my reach I the finely compendium van will have creativity techniques in it even which sand to use

English to Russian back to English:

It will be large idea? Systematic method for writing of fiction will be large idea. Large idea will be also large purpose. I am attempted to reach my purpose 4 invent many methods I I divide here in proportion to. When I reach my purpose I will be have precise plan- the summary of methods creativity, it is which necessary to use in any arena

Friday, February 17, 2006

Hmmm, more blogging time?

"New drugs are being developed to help people cope with the pressures of a 24-hour lifestyle on only two hours sleep".

News item.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Thought experiments for creativity and fiction...three techniques

While X, X

I will start with a situation: a police station receives an urgent call and a police officer runs through the station to get to his car.

I set up the use of this tool with the template:

While X,X

For the first 'X' I insert the activity - the running:

While running, X

and then choose - at random - an action for the second 'X':

While running, cleaning.

The aim of this is to suggest that while the policeman is running to his car he is also cleaning. My objective is to find the action of cleaning in the action of running - even it is to the smallest, smallest degree. With a gun-to-head mentality I set out to find the cleaning in the action of running. My first thought is that -- to a very small degree -- some dirt on the floor is picked up by his shoes as he runs. The floor also kind of reciprocates - it 'cleans' the shoes by removing minute amounts of dirt as the shoes make contact with the floor. I can also consider opposites - that the shoes are dirtying the floor and the floor is dirtying his shoes.

If I am working to a quota I can consider other ways in which cleaning occurs. For example, as the policeman runs, he breathes and will inhale minute particles of dust and dirt -- he is cleaning to a small degree.

Increasing the degree
(c) FreeFoto.com
On a scene such as the one on the right I can use the Action-selection tool as described in the Profiling the Zone Of Attention post. This takes the form:

What's X?

and, at random, I choose an action. For example:

What's lapping?

I consider that 'waves' are an answer -- as they are lapping against the metal columns of the pier. Next I use the While X,X tool:

While lapping, X

and choose an action for the second 'X'. In this case 'rising'. Thus:

While lapping, rising.

It's obvious that a wave rises to a degree as it laps against the metal column (see image, right).

Next I start to increase the degree. The degree of rising will increase -- and go in increasing inexorably, up beyond the pier and into the sky.


The 10FALL mnemonic represents:

10 = 10 years
FA = (could) function as
LL = looks like

As the wave continues on its 'journey' - with the rising continuing - I choose a place to stop and freeze the journey. I visualise the scenario and then apply the three sections of the 10FALL tool.


I imagine that the frozen stage of the journey has either been at that stage for ten years or will stay at that stage for the next ten years. So, I'm skipping beyond the headlines stage ('amazing tower of water appears' etc), the initial shock of locals or the immediate ramifications. I consider that the situation is accepted as the status quo.

FA - (Could) function as

I consider what functions the tower of water could have at the chosen, frozen stage. So, in the case of the above image - where the water tower has just climbed above the pier - I could consider that the tower of water could function as an aquarium, a viewing point, a theme park ride (a type of slide?) or maybe just an unusual tourist attraction!

LL - Looks like

At this stage I consider what the water tower looks like - or perhaps merely resembles slightly. The tower of water looks like a constructed appendage of the pier (a viewing point?) a helter skelter, or a water spout.

The degree increases

I can opt to continue increasing the degree -- which results in the tower of water continuing to rise. The tower of water can reach space, moving into the solar system and beyond. Interesting questions and considerations occur as the water's journey continues. Where would the water come from? Maybe the sea level would drop as more water is needed to fuel the rising water. Maybe water would migrate across the globe; I don't worry too much about bad science - what's important is that the water continues to rise inexorably. Maybe chemicals reactions using the elements of earth (and perhaps the sun) would be needed. If I'm writing fiction and in a sci-fi mood then I could decide that the water should be stolen from other lifeforms throughout the universe.

If I'd applied 10FALL at the stage on the right I could've considered that the tower of water could function as, or looks like a space elevator.

Conclusion and thoughts on applications

Thought experiments: I think the above approach has potential when forming thought experiments (such as the 'What if?' questions or lateral thinking provocations). These thought experiments could be used for fiction-writing applications or real-world creativity. At the moment I am working on techniques to explore the ramifications and consequences of the products of the thought experiments. I'll post these soon.

Free association: I think the approach has potential as a free-association tool. As was shown above, the looks like stage can trigger associations - thoughts of space elevators and helter skelters were triggered in the example above.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Listing adjectives and adjectival phrases

Method one

With this first method I take some random words from directed-association results:

Example: officer, instructor, blame

and use the first three letters to trigger adjectives. Thus:

officer = official, off-side
instructor = instrumental, inside, insulting
blame = blameworthy, blatant, black

I can also use the letters to trigger verbs/actions and use them adjectivally:

instructor = insisting, insulting, inspecting

I can also make up new adjectives. So with a random word 'hair' I could create an adjective and a possible meaning:

Hairish = like hair

With a random word 'Constable' I could create:

Constable-ish = in the style of John Constable

Method two

With method two my aim is to go beyond the predictable: I name a specific thing or object before I consider possible adjectives (or phrases) that fit. I do this by using a template:

Name an X thing or object

and choosing a random word for the 'X'.


Name a crying thing = tears

From this I can name possible adjectives and adjectival phrases:

Wet, emotional, moving, from the eyes, onion-consequence.

I can also use the template:

Name an X X thing or object

to set more of a challenge and go beyond the obvious when naming a thing or object.

Setting a quota

With method two I can also set a quota for my adjectival phrase to go beyond the obvious choices.

So if I set a directive: "Name a parliament thing" and I choose "Debate" as an answer I can try to name adjectival phrases of several words:

Debate is: likely to be heated, among opposing sides, likely to make the news if it's deemed newsworthy.

See also: Listing adverbs and adverbial phrases

Listing adverbs and adverbial phrases

In the near future I will be making some posts about creativity techniques that use adverbs (and adverbial phrases) and I will be linking to this post.

Listing adverbs and adverbial phrases

Method one

With this first method I take some random words from directed-association results:

Example: priceless, parliament, improve

and use the first three letters to trigger adverbs. Thus:

priceless = privately, primitively, priggishly
parliament = partially
improve = imperatively, imperiously, importantly

I can also make up adverbs. So with a random word 'Boomtown' I could create an adverb and a possible meaning:

Booly = in a way that shocks people

With a random word 'puns' I could create:

Punily = in a way that uses puns

Method two

With the second method I pick off verbs/actions from the directed-association results:

Example: disrespecting, crying, learning

and consider adverbs or adverbial phrases that could 'fit' the actions:

Disrespecting is done: rudely, with attitude, angrily
Crying is done: tearfully, sadly, with the eyes
Learning is done: studiously, cerebrally, with books, by using the memory

I can also pick random words and create verbs before I consider adverbs that fit. So, with a random word 'trophy' I create the verb-form 'trophying'.

Trophying (winning a trophy) is done: triumphantly, gleefully, arduously, after lots of hard work

Method three

With method three my aim is to go beyond the predictable by naming a specific action before I consider adverbs that fit. I do this by using a template:

Name an X action

and choosing a random word for the 'X'.


Name a weapon action

From this I can name possible actions:

Loading a gun, firing a gun, choosing a weapon, hitting someone

and then pick one of these actions and consider adverbs that fit:

Firing a gun is done: powerfully, with bullets, with a target in mind, aggressively.

Method four

I can also list actions using the template:

Name an X X action

and choosing two random words thus:

Name an Haywain official action

Possible actions: guarding the Haywain, restoring the Haywain, explaining the Haywain (by a tour guide)

I then, as before, choose an action and consider adverbs that fit:

Restoring the Haywain is done: expertly, with oil paints, every ten years, with a relaunch date in mind.

See also: Listing adjectives and adjectival phrases

Some thoughts on creating fiction

Here are two story starts I made up:

1) A man from London travels across the world to find and meet 'the wisest man in the world'. When he finds the man the wise man tells him that he (the wise man) is dying and that he wishes to pass the 'secret of wisdom' over to the traveler so that the traveler becomes 'the new wisest man in the world'.

The wise man tells the traveler that his wisdom/cleverness is due to a super-conscious state accessible to all. He explains that humans can naturally attain this state but over the centuries this knowledge has been gradually lost and that the wise man is the last to know the secret. The secret is a simple one and all humans can achieve the state simply.

What happens next?

2) A building in London has been demolished and before the construction company starts work on the new building a team of archeologists are permitted to dig at the site. One day - after finding numerous artifacts - the archeologists discover a solid brick 'box'. The archeologists break open the box and find a manuscript (or book). They open the first page of the 'book'. They see a date written and are astonished to find that the date is that day's date - the date they broke open the brick box. *

They turn the next page and the book instructs that only one page can be turned over each day, starting from that moment. The archeologists turn the first page...

What happens next?

*Anyone familiar with the story of Nostradamus will recognise this part of the story.

Thoughts on 'What happens next?'

For me, a more powerful and relevant question than 'What happens next?' is 'What do I (as the writer/creative) do next?'. My aim has been to devise a number of thinking tools/approaches that can (potentially) create any and every 'next' possible so that any eventuality is create-able. The tools should also be capable of creating any interesting starting scenario.

I created this idea for a curse: a man is cursed (by an evil demon or whatever) so that every time he is eating a meal and bites into a piece of meat he sees the animal that provided the meat dying in the abattoir. If I write down the basic concept of this idea:

A man is cursed so that every time he eats meat he sees the meat's animal dying.

I can ask how ideas like that can be created: I can set a team of monkeys typing on typewriters; I can pick seventeen random words from a dictionary and hope a good idea is suggested; I can pray for inspiration. However, what I've been trying to develop is a kind of 'fiction shorthand' so that ideas like that (and similar ideas) can be created systematically.

A slightly different scenario for a moment: if I wanted it to be me seeing the meat's animal dying then in this fiction shorthand the idea would be expressed as:

I track my food

Track is one of the supertools. As discussed in the supertools and track and freeze posts, track can follow a chosen subject/object backwards in time (almost as if there had been a secret webcam following the object at all times and the full recording of the webcam is visible). If, however, I am cursing someone else then in the fiction shorthand this would be expressed as:

I (en) track person A's food

Where the '(en)' indicates that I am forcing someone else - person A - to track their food, and thus they see the food's 'journey' - all the way back to the abbatoire.

Although the above shorthand wouldn't directly create the curse idea, the idea would almost certainly be a product of the considerations created by the shorthand.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Fiction Project

I hurt my back quite badly recently but I'm still managing to put a lot of effort into my fiction project (a project to make writing fiction more systematic). I'm working on the idea of a 'nonsense reality': a world (or universe) without boundaries, a world in a constant high degree of flux. It's not unlike a dreamlike scenario. The idea is that the lack of boundaries in the nonsense reality will generate ideas quickly and these ideas can be moulded by the supertools. Once I have some ideas created in this nonsense reality I may be able to develop the ideas and make them more realistic. Hopefully this approach will also help to develop ideas with real world applications.

More soon.