Posted on

Random Inputs

Node generation

NAME OF PLAY: Random Inputs
Object of Play:
To generate random thinking and new ideas around any topic you choose.
# of Players: 5 – 10
Duration of Play: 30 minutes – 1 hour
How to Play:
Before the meeting, generate a list of 50-75 random nouns. You can do this however you see fit, but try to ensure that the nouns are NOT contextually based on the players’ work.
Write each word on an individual slip of paper and put all of them in a container you can draw from blindly.
In a white space visible to all the players, write the topic of the play (ex. a new ad campaign) and give all players access to sticky notes – enough that they can generate potentially a dozen ideas per word.
Tell the players that the goal of the game is to come up with ideas that are outside of the default thinking around the product or service. Tell them that the connections they make with the words can and should be expansive, even silly at first glance. Offer examples to clarify the kind of output you’re looking for.
Draw the first word from your container and read it outloud to the players. Then draw a picture of it in the white space (even if you don’t really know how to.)
Give everyone five minutes to quietly write on sticky notes any ideas they have related to the topic and inspired by the word.
Ask the players to post all of their ideas in the white space.
Repeat this process for the each word you pull from your container and keep going until you and the players feel like you’ve generated enough ideas to get traction on your topic.
Strategy:
This play is powerful because the inputs are random, so it’s important that the list of words you generate before the meeting adheres to the principle of randomness as best it can. If you start compiling words that people associate with the topic, you’ll get ideas that the players have had many times before, which is the antithesis of the desired outcome. So make sure your data is decently scrubbed. And if you want to include others in building the list as a way to get them excited before the game, ask each player to submit her own words. But you’ll need to request that the words be unrelated to the usual workplace vernacular. One way to avoid getting the same words (and the same ideas) is to invite players from other areas in the organization, who wouldn’t normally be involved in the brainstorm around the topic you chose. Some of the best ideas come from unexpected places, right?
As the person leading the game, when you announce each random word you may find that you have no idea how to draw representations of them. Draw them anyway. This helps to create a space in which players recognize that their contributions won’t be judged harshly. It matters not only as a basic facilitative technique but also because this game works best when people take risks and post up what can appear to be odd contributions. To encourage bravery, take some risks of your own and be aware that there are certain tendencies the players may have that can stifle the creative process.
For example, after they hear a word, players may attempt to go through a series of steps to relate the word to the product or service: “An airplane reminds me of wind which reminds me of blue which reminds me of the trademark blue of our product.” But there’s no creativity in that – the player’s just retreading an established path. Other tendencies players may have are to rearrange the letters of the word to create another word they associate with the topic or to create an acronym that describes the topic. This is a creative copout. You want people to forge creative, not methodical, paths from the random word to the topic. Sometimes it can be a direct leap; other times it can meander. But encourage them to create anew. Assure them that there are no “left-field” comments and that this play is most effective when people take creative leaps of faith.
If you end up with the opposite challenge – you have a group that jumps right in and starts having crazy fun –  let them be energetic but also help them maintain focus on the topic. Give the players enough time to generate lots of ideas but not so much time that they’re no longer connecting the word back to the product/service. With a game this juicy, it can happen.
This game is an adaptation of Edward do Bono’s exercise called ‘Random Input’ from Creativity Workout: 62 Exercises to Unlock Your Most Creative Ideas.

NAME OF PLAY: Random Inputs

Object of Play: To generate random thinking and new ideas around any topic you choose.

# of Players: 5 – 10

Duration of Play: 30 minutes – 1 hour

How to Play:

  1. Before the meeting, generate a list of 50-75 random nouns. You can do this however you see fit, but try to ensure that the nouns are NOT contextually based on the players’ work.
  2. Write each word on an individual slip of paper and put all of them in a container you can draw from blindly.
  3. In a white space visible to all the players, write the topic of the play (ex. a new ad campaign) and give all players access to sticky notes – enough that they can generate potentially a dozen ideas per word.
  4. Tell the players that the goal of the game is to come up with ideas that are outside of the default thinking around the product or service. Tell them that the connections they make with the words can and should be expansive, even silly at first glance. Offer examples to clarify the kind of output you’re looking for.
  5. Draw the first word from your container and read it outloud to the players. Then draw a picture of it in the white space (even if you don’t really know how to.)
  6. Give everyone five minutes to quietly write on sticky notes any ideas they have related to the topic and inspired by the word.
  7. Ask the players to post all of their ideas in the white space.
  8. Repeat this process for the each word you pull from your container and keep going until you and the players feel like you’ve generated enough ideas to get traction on your topic.

Random-Inputs

Strategy: This play is powerful because the inputs are random, so it’s important that the list of words you generate before the meeting adheres to the principle of randomness as best it can. If you start compiling words that people associate with the topic, you’ll get ideas that the players have had many times before, which is the antithesis of the desired outcome. So make sure your data is decently scrubbed. And if you want to include others in building the list as a way to get them excited before the game, ask each player to submit her own words. But request that the words be unrelated to the usual workplace vernacular. One way to avoid getting the same words (and the same ideas) is to invite players from other areas in the organization, who wouldn’t normally be involved in the brainstorm around the topic you chose. Some of the best ideas come from unexpected places, right?

As the person leading the game, when you announce each random word you may find that you have no idea how to draw representations of them. Draw them anyway. This helps to create a space in which players recognize that their contributions won’t be judged harshly. It matters not only as a basic facilitative technique but also because this game works best when people take risks and post up what can appear to be odd contributions. To encourage bravery, take some risks of your own and be aware that there are certain tendencies the players may have that can stifle the creative process.

For example, after they hear a word, players may attempt to go through a series of steps to relate the word to the product or service: “An airplane reminds me of wind which reminds me of blue which reminds me of the trademark blue of our product.” But there’s no creativity in that – the player’s just retreading an established path. Other tendencies players may have are to rearrange the letters of the word to create another word they associate with the topic or to create an acronym that describes the topic. This is a creative copout. You want people to forge creative, not methodical, paths from the random word to the topic. Sometimes it can be a direct leap; other times it can meander. But encourage them to create anew. Assure them that there are no “left-field” comments and that this play is most effective when people take creative leaps of faith.

If you end up with the opposite challenge – you have a group that jumps right in and starts having crazy fun –  let them be energetic but also help them maintain focus on the topic. Give the players enough time to generate lots of ideas but not so much time that they’re no longer connecting the word back to the product/service. With a game this juicy, it can happen.

Note: This game is an adaptation of Edward do Bono’s exercise called ‘Random Input’ from Creativity Workout: 62 Exercises to Unlock Your Most Creative Ideas.

7 thoughts on “Random Inputs

  1. I love this game, but have a couple of questions about the last bit of advice.

    1) Why is it not creative to attempt to “go through a series of steps to relate the word to the product or service”? I recognize that you cannot have every person playing the game do this for every sticky note, because sooner or later, those paths will certainly have already been established, but this process of attempting to find connections between things is a huge part of the creative process, isn’t it? Maybe I’m just misunderstanding.

    2) The creative process often *can* be methodical. I hate to see “creative” and “methodical” being held up as opposites. Creativity usually ends up breaking the norm, pushing boundaries, establishing new connections, etc. But the most creative people I know (and they are crazy creative) are *all* methodical people. Anyway, isn’t playing a game a method?

    Those things said, I’m definitely going to use this game at work. It’s a nice way to expand the creative capital a team is working with!

  2. Hi Jeremy,

    I certainly agree with your second point: that method is integral to the creative process. If it weren’t, I agree, there would be no point in writing this book!

    As far as your first point, I am not sure why Sunni feels that going through a set of steps isn’t creative, so I tend to agree with your point. Hopefully Sunni will clarify what she means there.

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. It’s very much like zeroing in intensely on a single scoring round of a Glass Bead Game, and that’s a good thing.

    -Rob D.

  4. hi all,

    a short description how we play in a company:

    given is a large Sea Map (drawn by me), dimensions 2,40 m x 1,80 m. It contains several islands and lands. All the descriptions came from meetings of employees, like “Land of Conventions”, “Island of Communication”, “Treasure Island”, “Island of Taboos”, “Towers of Experts”, “Vulcano of Creativity” and so on.

    The map has been tested several times, and slowly some rules are developing:

    Somebody brings in a theme, a problem, a task, formulated in the metaphorical language of Sea fare, described as a Scenario. He/she asks some others to pick up some roles in this Scenario. They decide how long they want to play. Every player gets a little figure to place on a shore or on a ship, and there they go!

    What they are not clear about yet is the role of a host, I think it is essential, but they have to find it out themselves.

    Every play is documented in a Log Book. So by and by new groups coming toplay can use some experiences of others – or not.

    It is amazing how fast the inner children in the grown up players take over.

    Has anybody made experiences with similar games? I would love to exchange views!

    Rino

  5. Jeremy,

    It’s perhaps too late to respond to your questions, but they hit right before the holiday season and I haven’t had the chance. Thank you for them though; they are really good questions.

    1.) The reason I encourage people to avoid going through a series of steps to arrive at a connection between two things is because, to me, creativity is about making associations we have NOT YET made. In other words, if we try to relate two concepts to each other by relying on pathways we’ve already trod, that is actually the antithesis of creativity in terms of the definition I was using. The purpose of the game is to take a creative leap, and I believe that leap starts to become baby steps of logic when we rely on “a” then “a+1” then “a+2” and so forth. This definition of creativity is echoed in much of Edward deBono’s work and it’s where I got my inspiration for this game.

    2.) Einstein was very methodical in his calculations for general relativity but his methods didn’t take him to that final creative leap that gave him the realization that space is warped. His “methods” eventually kept leading him to the same, incorrect hypotheses. It was when he gave the methodical approach a break and played the violin that he would literally take a leap and arrive at a “truth” that he previously did not have access to, due to the limitations of being methodical. This is why I prefer not to describe our games as being “methodical.” They do offer a framework and a process for good work, but that is largely to set the stage for creative leaps to occur.

    Thank you again for your questions,
    Sunni

  6. Love what you’re doing here but isn’t this just a knock-off of the Random Word game that has been around forever and your environmental scan activity from the Wiki is a knock-off of Grove Graphic templates and the Six Hats game isn’t inspired by, but really is a knock-off of exactly what de Bono does in his book? I think you need better source attribution/credit where you are clearly copying work that is already out in the market.

  7. Knock-off, rip-off, homage; copying, collecting; it all depends on your point of view. Did the Brothers Grimm steal stories from the people of the German countryside? I suppose there’s an argument that they did. Our goal with this book is not to claim authorship, but to collect the best games from wherever we can find them and source them appropriately. Since you seem to have a lot of deep knowledge here I hope you will join the wiki as an editor and help us to hash out the original sources of many of these games. So far it seems to be a more difficult undertaking than you might imagine. When trying to credit original sources we often find ourselves looking at a series of Russian dolls: We can source an original “author” or “designer” but there always seems to be a previous claimant lurking in the wings. We want to give credit where credit is due, but at the same time we don’t want to trace everything back to Leonardo Da Vinci or the cave painters at Lascaux. Any help you can offer is much appreciated.

Comments are closed.