Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 16 - October 2006 - by Phil Chambers

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Welcome to the October issue of the Learning Technologies Newsletter, Please continue to forward it to friends and colleagues who you think would find it useful.

I am mindful that the last couple of newsletters have been focussing on Memory and also more of a 'reporting nature' rather than giving you anything practical. To redress the balance I thought I'd focus this month on tips that you can use. As well as our regular Mind Map® tip and quote of the month, we will give you some tools to improve your creativity.

Mind Map® Tip of the Month

Add some empty branches if you find yourself 'stuck'. The brain will naturally try to fill gaps and you will come up with as many ideas as there are empty branches.

(Note: In connection to this month's theme of creativity - a Mind Map is a great way or generating lots of ideas)

October's Quote of the Month

"You will never see anything so
serious as the child at play."


For many more quotes click here.

Five Tips to Boost Your Creativity

People often ask how to be more creative. Many think of creativity is some ethereal talent that you've either got or you haven't. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. It is a tangible, teachable skill that can be developed and augmented by using various techniques.

The main characteristic of creativity is novelty, going past traditional thinking to new more fertile territory. We need to break through the self-imposed barriers to thought. So how do we do this? I'll give you five tools:

•  Challenge assumptions.

We often place limits on ourselves by making assumptions. For example, if you're holding a block of wood and release it will it fall, rise or stay where it is? The obvious assumption is that it will fall. Edward deBono makes the point that it depends where you are. If you're under water it will float up to the surface, if you're in space it will stay where it is!

There are many puzzles that are solved by challenging assumptions. For example:

Q. A man steps out in front of a car on a country road with no streetlights. He is wearing dark, unreflective clothing and the car does not have its headlights on but it is still able to stop and not hit the man. How?

A. It was broad daylight - Because of all the references to lighting the assumption is it was dark.

•  Random stimulus and analogy

Often all we need is a fresh perspective on a problem. To approach it from a different direction. Choosing a random object and then seeing analogies or links between this and the problem or topic that you're thinking about can provide that new angle. Choose any object and consider its various components and attributes. What ideas do these trigger? Don't be too literal - the sounds of words or alternative meanings can sometimes lead to new insights.

"In finding resemblances between remote objects or ideas, metaphorical-analogical thinking opens new pathways of thought and thus of creative problem solving ... If the unlike things are really alike in some ways, perhaps they are so in others; that is the meaning of analogy. We pursue the thought, and find new meanings, new understanding, and often, new solutions to old problems."

-Morton Hunt, The Universe Within, 1982

•  Reversal and Rearrangement

Turn the problem or situation on its head. If you are stumped on how to improve a product or service it is often easier to think what would contribute to a poor service and then implement the opposite. This shift in attitude is enough to take you out of the ordinary. For example, rather than thinking "how can I make my business more profitable?" you could think "how could my business lose money?" - possible ideas are:

    1. Charge less for items than they cost to make
    2. Waste money on ineffective advertising, PR, unused services
    3. Give money away
    4. Burn money (for heating / lighting)
    5. Discourage customers from visiting or spending money.
    6. Encourage staff to take 'sick' leave on full pay

Theses are just a few ideas. You could come up with many others but just this list leads to cutting waste, increasing margins, analysing and streamlining marketing, providing better customer service, making it easy to purchase items and concentrating on staff wellbeing.

•  Modification

Think about the attributes of the situation and how they can be changed. For example make it dryer (packet soup), make it colder (frozen food instead of tins), make it bigger (Wal-mart has become the world's most profitable retailer through giant superstores), make it smaller (Apple created the ipod nano - 2,000 songs or 25,000 photos in a box little bigger than a credit card and weighing 40 grams), etc.

•  Combination

What combinations of different products or industries can you make? For example students from Durham University have recently won an RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) Design Directions Award for combining a tin can with a stove for use in relief aid to victims of natural disasters. Full story here: http://www.dur.ac.uk/news/allnews/?itemno=4717

Walt Disney combined cartoon characters with tourism to create Disneyland (the first theme park).

There are many other strategies that you can use to boost your creativity but I hope these will give you a starting point to come up with new and more innovative solutions in your business or personal life. An important general principle is to be playful in your thoughts and enjoy the process.


Braindancing, Dilip Mukerjea, 1998, published by The Brainware Press

The Learning Revolution, Gordon Dryden and Jeannette Vos, 1997, published by The Learning Web Ltd. (available form our online shop)

That's all for this month. If you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to contact me.