Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Creativity Booster: Discovering Uncommon Connections


As a creative individual, I am constantly looking for ways to boost my creativity. Sometimes the best way to do that is to look at things that have worked in the past – things that I have done that have helped me to come up with my best ideas. Then I ask myself, “How could I do this again? How could I use this same principle to my advantage?”

Discovering uncommon connections is one of my favorite ways to think outside the box and generate fresh ideas. It involves brainstorming in a way that is somewhat backwards, but moves thought forward in a unique way. It’s a simple process, but packs a lot of punch.

You begin with a project in mind; something that you are wanting to create. Let’s use photography as an example. Say you are wanting to take a series of photos, but you want it to be completely different than the typical run-of-the-mill photographs you usually take; something that really blows the lid off the box. So you grab a piece of paper and begin brainstorming.

The goal here is to make several different lists. You might make a list of types of photography: landscape, portraits, still life, animals, etc. Then you might make a list of photography styles: black and white, color, HDR, stylized digital art, etc. Then you could make a list of household objects: paper clips, glassware, fruit and vegetables, potted plants, etc. You could make a list of places you’ve always wanted to photograph: Europe, New Zealand, The Great Wall of China. You get the idea. Basically you want to create several different lists of things that are related to your project or topic – and maybe even lists that aren’t related at all.

Why? Well, that’s where the uncommon connections come in. Once you have your lists, then you sit down and pick two completely random things off of them and ask yourself: how might you create something new that includes these two things? This forces you to think about old standards in new ways.

For example, you might choose “paper clips” and “Great Wall of China” and have the idea of constructing the Wall out of paper clips. Or “stylized digital art” and “fruit and vegetables” might spawn a whole series of psychedelic still lives. Or “glassware” and “black and white” might give you the idea to take close-up black and white abstract photos of things distorted by glass. The following photo is a piece I created by using this process: I constructed a waterfall out of mugs and ties that resulted in a truly unique still life.

"Mug & Tie Waterfall" © Tien Frogget

This is a really fun process that can take a lot of experimenting and toying with before you think of the perfect idea. Often times, you will come up with a lot of ideas that won’t be feasible. But what this process does is cause you to look at things differently and come up with unusual solutions. It gets your mind wandering down paths that it otherwise wouldn’t have contemplated, and gets your creative juices flowing.

You could even try cutting up all of your lists on strips of paper and mixing them together in a bowl, then pulling two or three at a time that way. Regardless of how you do it, the key to success with this process is a willingness to be open minded and consider every option longer than you normally would.

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