In her delightful recent post "Add A Little More Random to Your Product," Kathy Sierra wrote some very positive things about using the Creative Whack Pack to generate ideas. This inspired me to go to my very own Whack Pack and pull a card at random. And this is the card I drew: Try A Random Idea! Truly Amazing! Can you believe that? Let's check out what it says.
once was an Indian medicine man who made hunting maps for his tribe.
When game got sparse, he'd put a piece of fresh leather in the sun to
dry. Then he'd say a few prayers, fold and twist it, and then smooth it
out. The rawhide was now etched with lines. He marked some reference
points, and a new map was created. When the hunters followed the map's
newly defined trails, they usually discovered abundant game.
Moral: by letting the rawhide's random folds represent trails, he pointed the hunters to places they had not looked.
We can create an oracle in the same way the medicine man did. We’ll need three things:
1. A question that we address to the oracle. (The medicine man asked: “Where can more game be found?”) This question focuses your thinking.
2. A way to generate a random piece of information. (The medicine man twisted and folded a piece of leather.) The random selection is important. Since people tend to use the same problem solving approaches repeatedly, they come up with the same answers. Since a random piece of information is unpredictable, it forces us to look at the problem in a new way.
3. An attitude that interprets the resulting random piece of information as the answer to your question. (The medicine man interpreted the lines as representing new hunting trails.)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
You can see that if we have a question and an open, receptive mind, then you’re two-thirds of the way toward creating an oracle. Let’s run through it step by step.
1. Let’s suppose that you’re working on a project and wonder, “What should I be thinking about? What should I do next? What’s an alternative approach? What aren’t I seeing?” First off, clear your mind. Take time to relax and focus your thinking. Now form your question.
2. Now, open your mind up to things that have nothing to do with the idea you’re developing. Select something from the world at random. Indeed, constructing the means to get a piece of unexpected information can be both a great way to use your imagination and a lot of fun. It could be one of the following:
- Pick out the sixth word on page 247 of your dictionary: A doorknob.
- Open a magazine. Count the 12th full page advertisement from the front. What product is shown? A fountain pen.
- Look out the window and find the second thing that has yellow in it: A tennis ball.
- Open a catalog at random. What’s in the upper left hand corner? Coffee cups.
- Open up the stock section of your newspaper. Go to the third column. Count down to the 16th company whose shares increased in value the previous day. What is their main product? Water faucets.
3. Now think how the random thing applies to your situation. Take as much time as you need. There is a connection between the random thing you select and your problem — and your job is to find it.
What are different ways in which it relates to or could apply to your question? Be creative. Go beyond your first answer; look for a second and a third right answer. Be literal in your interpretation. Be metaphorical. Be off-the-wall. Be serious.
Think of each random thing as a stimulant to your imagination. Let it spark a series of fresh associations in your mind. Don’t worry how practical or logical you are. What’s important is where each random thing leads you.
Remember: Often those ideas that initially seem the least relevant become the most important ones of all because they point to something that you’ve been completely overlooking.
So, are you looking for a way to generate random ideas? Well, here's a little secret I haven't shared with anyone. If you go to my Creative Think website and click on my photograph in the banner, you'll get a nice useful surprise (pssst! it's a Creative Whack). And if you click again, you'll get another random useful surprise. A gift to my readers! I hope you enjoy using it. Have fun!