How to Dream up Great Ideas: A Workshop on Everyday Creativity

Tudor Rickards describes his widely-applied method for developing skills at creating ideas in everyday business or leisure situations.

The script which follows was developed originally for a podcast with thought exercises to illustrate the processes of idea generation and development to show how a process leading to everyday creativity took place recently.

I hope it is of use to help your personal creativity system. It can also be of value for creativity trainers wanting to use audio in their workshops or tutorials.

I’m addressing the listener as a specific individual listening to the audio, either alone or within a group. in either case, you might want to take notes as you listen. I’ll indicate the points at which note taking will be particularly valuable.

One way of thinking about creativity is to contrast ‘something special’ or ‘big C‘ point of view, to a ‘nothing special’ or ‘little c‘ point of view.

Rather than use the term ‘little c’ I prefer to talk about everyday creativity which is a universal human attribute, most often seen in personal discoveries which take place in everyday lived experiences. What may be ignored or considered ‘nothing special’ to others may be considered ‘something very special’ to the person who has thought of the idea.

I will demonstrate my general approach through a recent specific example. I’m going to present it so that you can join in actively, if you are interested.

My example took place in a discussion, not as part of a special meeting arranged to create new ideas or solve problems. The ideas came about following a social tennis game we usually play for an hour twice a week. One recent game was played with three participants, because Gail, had become stuck in a motorway snarl up and abandoned the journey.

As a result we played a version of ‘two versus one’, which is halfway between singles and doubles. This substitute for the intended game of doubles is better than no game at all, but not much better.

To explain what happened next, I’d like you play a thought game.

Imagine you had been one of the three players. You have just finished the rather unsatisfactory two versus one game. You have just seen a text from Gail explaining what her problem had been. You should also know Gail is fantastically reliable. This is the first time she missed an agreed game over quite a few years.
How do you feel about what has happened? Here’s a few possibilities which came from our conversation at the time.

That explains it. At least, Gail has not had an accident

The traffic is getting worse. She should have started out earlier.

The one v two version of tennis is not much fun

We need a substitute to be on call to make up a four for our games

It would better if we started with five players with one dropping out.

Maybe your thoughts chimed with these to some degree. We were expressing how we felt, and moving towards what I’d consider to be examples of everyday creativity. Can you see the way one idea led to another?

What happened next was more unexpected. One of the group picked up on the general dissatisfaction with the outcome of Gail’s absence, saying:

It’s a pity one v two is not very enjoyable.

Can you see how the last comment could be a starting point for more everyday creativity?

There’s no correct answer. For me, it signals a trigger for new ideas. Why? Because it shows a dissatisfaction and also a starting point for thinking about what to do about it.
In more structured ideas meetings, a facilitator type of meeting leader would write it down maybe on a whiteboard. A favoured way is as an action statement or
‘How to …’

In this case, the ‘how to’ would be something like

How to make a game of tennis with three people more interesting

Back to the thought exercise. In the actual discussion, general chatting was going on between sips of coffee. Some about other matters of interest to those present around the small table. I was still thinking about ideas suggested by the ‘How to’ , and had fallen silent as several ideas came into my mind.

Did the ‘How to’ start turning your thoughts towards ideas for dealing with the posed challenge? If not, I’ll have to resort to the old teacher’s trick of saying ‘this approach often acts as a trigger for new ideas, and in the case we are studying it did for me, as I’m about to tell you.

But don’t start assessing my, or your, ideas too quickly.

Back again to the discussion at the tennis club. I had the start of an idea I wanted to share. ‘I’ve thought of an idea for making three-person tennis more interesting’. I was reminded of the gym where you’ve got people cycling away. That’s pretty boring. But someone had the bright idea of making it more interesting by competing with others at a distance.

Another thought experiment. Maybe you are adding to my idea with your own thoughts. In the more structured meetings you have found a Yes And. Again it’s the process of idea building or ‘Yes anding

I struggled to share several ideas which were jostling for recognition in my mind.
Here’s the idea’, I said, ‘it’s how to make tennis more interesting, like Gym cycling. I want an electronic system.’

We began to see further ideas:

We could use mobile phones for a solution’ I said hopefully.
The computer programme would keep score’ someone else said.

Are you seeing new possibilities in the ideas suggested? If so, you are experiencing the process of everyday creativity in action.

But creativity can’t be turned on and off at will. The ideas continued to nag away at me. So much so, that a few days later I had worked out several ideas in more detail. Strictly speaking each one was a fleshing out of the original idea of how to make three-person tennis more interesting and how to develop an electronic game linked to tennis.

I haven’t chosen this example to show how creative I am, or how clever my ideas are.
This is everyday creativity, remember. But for me it was a Big C idea, which appealed to me if no-one else.
Not special enough to share. But enough for me to discuss one of them later (the mobile phone intervention) in an interview for another podcaster.

In this post, I have tried to explain with examples how everyday creativity takes place: Yes and … why not try out the process the next time you are in a discussion at home or at work?