Serious Play: Freeing up thinking

Tim Brown gives some great insight here into practical creativity in his work place at IDEO. I’ve used many of the activities he showcases here with teachers and students. The 30 Circles activity is a particular favourite of mine. It’s a divergent thinking activity which forces you to generate as many ideas as possible within a given time limit, whilst switching off your integral quality-sensor. So often, we become inhibited by our own preconceived ideas about what is ‘good’. For many, this quality-sensor mechanism is one of the biggest hurdles for us to really tap into our creativity.

I used the activity with a group of teachers recently and they ‘wasted’ 27 seconds of the allotted minute before they made any mark on their paper at all. They spent this time looking nervously around the room at their peers, checking to see if they were ‘right’ in what they thought they had to do. Even though there was no right or wrong. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no judgement here from me on this as all it did was remind me of how great fear of getting things wrong can be when it comes to thinking.

I’ve included the template I use for the 30 circles activity. The only thing you need to remember when using this is:

(1) Be clear that any approach is the ‘right’ approach
(2) Restrict the the time to one minute
(3) Invest in feedback: How did it FEEL to think like that? How confident were you in completing the activity? What were your concerns? In what ways did you feel pressure (from others/ yourself/ me…?)
(4) How could you adapt this and make it a subject/topic specific activity to free up thinking and establish a ‘safe-to-try’ culture of learning?

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