Monday, July 21, 2014

FOLIO Post 1: The Adviser

(FOLIO stands for Foundations Of Life And Its Options. See Folio intro )

Starting Scenario.

I'm sat doing the well known creativity challenge Name 100 Uses For A Paperclip.Suppose I want to think about the challenge in more detail? Suppose I want to be aware of my thinking itself, and the routes it takes and can potentially take? If, the day after doing my paperclip challenge, I suddenly had the thought, "Oh! I could've got more ideas by calling my creative friends for input!" how could  I  have generated that option while doing the exercise originally? How could I  find more options like that - and potentially  an unlimited number of options to explore and develop? What is the place to start?

The Fantasy Adviser

I've found a great way to start thinking about something is to imagine I have a fantasy adviser with me, offering advice. This way, I bring my thinking into the present moment - it's like a take a step back from what I'm working on to become aware of the bigger picture. It all sounds a bit "invisible friend" but it's a simple idea and doesn't involve any fancy visualisations or anything like that. It's a simple step: While I'm working on something, I switch to imagining briefly that an adviser is sat to the right of me and is offering advice.

The Advice

What form does the advice come in? To keep the start as simple as possible, I imagine that the adviser says one word (a randomly chosen one of one syllable) and I then interpret that word.

So, for example, if I'm doing the paperclip challenge and I switch to imagining the adviser and he says the word "glad". Here's some possible interpretations and ideas:

Glad: List what's good about the paperclip ideas you've generated so far.*
Glad: Focus on only creating ideas that will make people happy.

Here are some possible intepretations for the word "grand":

Grand: Get a thousand paperclips and create uses for them.**
Grand: Invent a grand paperclip - a gold paperclip, etc.

See: How to create a list of random words quickly.

More examples:

Stun: Stun the world by doing a million uses for the paperclip..
Snub: Stop doing this exercise and go and do something else!
Sink: "Sink" this challenge - drop the challenge and find another creativity challenge.
Sky: Work out how many paperclips would be in a chain that's long enough to reach the sky/space.
Skip: Make a skipping rope of paperclips.

A Possible Problem

I could, when I think about the random word from the adviser, get "stuck" on listing possible uses for the paperclip rather than taking a step back to seeing the bigger picture. For example, for the words above I could've come up with:

Glad: Bend the paperclip into a smile shape.
Grand: Sell the paperclip for a grand on eBay.

With those I've got "locked" on thinking of paperclip uses. There are a myriad of approaches among the FOLIO tools to stop this happening, but if I want to achieve this mentality right at the point of using this adviser approach I can consider that there are three main responses possible to the random word: The surreal, the irrelevant, and the normal (that gives "sin" for those of you who are as passionate (obsessed?) about acronyms as me). So, using the word "glad" again:

Glad (surreal): Run out into the streets and shout "Hallelujah for paperclips!"
Glad (irrelevant): Make a list of things in my life I'm grateful for.
Glad (normal): Ask someone what makes them glad about a paperclip - what they look for in a paperclip.***

This SIN approach can help to avoid the "locking" of the mindset. Another useful mentality is to set a little quota for each word. Sometimes I will set a quota of say, ten ideas for one word.With the paperclip challenge and the word "grand" this could give:

Grand: Make the project grand, more official

Grand: Sell the ideas, £1000 each.
Grand: Use a paperclip as a tuning tool on a grand piano.
Grand: Have a "100 uses for a paperclip" conference at the Grand Hotel.
Grand: Bend paperclips to spell the word "GRAND".

Grand: Have a grand plan - emulate the man who turned a paperclip into a house.
Grand: Melt millions of paperclips and build a grandstand.
Grand: How to take a normal paperclip and make it worth £1000?
Grand: How many paper clips can you buy for £1000?
Grand: Sell an ordinary paperclip for £1000 just for good:causes.

This quota approach can also help to avoid the locking of the mindset.


So, imagining a fantasy adviser giving me advice is a good place to start thinking about something. Each of the ideas of having a fantasy adviser or utilising of random inputs is nothing new of course, but I've found using them in combination is a great place to start using the FOLIO tools.

It's worth noting that, if I were applying the adviser approach to the here and now rather than to some hypothetical situation such as  things to do with paperclips, I'd actually be interpreting the advice so that it applies to me here, now, sat at this computer typing. So, the random word "nut" from my adviser might suggest, "Go eat some nuts and relax". And that's exactly what I'm going to do :)

tl;dr: When you are working on an activity, imagine you have an adviser sat with you who is offering advice. Interpret that advice.  

See also: How to create a list of random words quickly
Random Input (Edward de Bono's technique)

* For the idea "List what's good about the ideas you've generated so far" you could, for example, for an idea like "use the paperclip as a toothpick" list that this idea "stops you from having to spend money on toothpicks" From there you could specialise in only creating paperclip ideas that help you to save money.

** "Make a suit of chain mail armour out of paperclips" springs to mind.

*** They probably haven't put too much thought into that, to be honest!

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