Improv workshop

I stumbled upon an improv workshop this evening, run by Just Add Water. The company’s focus is to use theater, improve and role-play to improve understanding of human dynamics and solve organizational issues in the workplace.

The 4 C’s of Improvisation:

  • Consistency: Accepting the reality your partner creates.
  • Context: Building on the reality in the context of the scene.
  • Cooperation: Act as if you’re part of the scene.
  • Character: Become the character, be active in defining and using imaginary objects in the world.

Alexander Oscar Bamberg

baby

Today I am in celebration over my sister (and her husband)’s new bouncing baby boy, Alexander Oscar Bamberg. And, in this ultimate act of creation, I have become an uncle without so much as lifting a finger – even though I am some 4,867 miles away. Now, that’s a miracle. Congratulations and best wishes to the Bamberg family.

Shifting perspectives

bus

We never have all the information about the reality that surrounds us. Our reality can shift in an instant with the smallest piece information.

Take the following story:

You are riding on a bus. In front of you are two kids being very loud & obnoxious, jumping around and acting out of control (not in a cute kid way either, but in an irritating brat way). Their father is sitting right next to them paying no attention, doing nothing to intervene, and being the most disconnected father you have ever seen.

What kind of father do you think he is?

You decide to to something about it – what do you say to the father? “Excuse me sir, you could use some parenting skills – get a grip on your kids… and, oh, I’d better child protection services to report your serious neglect.”

Suppose you do approach the man, and he responds, “Oh, I do apologize, we just came from the hospital, where their mother just died suddenly. My children are a bit confused and not sure what is going on, and I’m still in shock.” Now what kind of father do you think he is? Did your reality change?

We can never have all the information, yet we often create negative tension in our reality based on how we believe the world to be. If the reality that we know to be true is most likely wrong, why not create one that generates less tension?

Alternate Reality Excercise

alternatereality
The latest exercise from Prof. Rao’s Creativity & Personal Mastery course is about shifting your perspective of reality.The reality that we construct for ourselves is based on the limited information we receive through our experiences. So if something in your world is not working for you, why not change it?Here is what you can do:

  • Pick an area of your life that is not working.
  • Create a new reality that improves upon this “reality”. (Make it up. Be creative.)
  • This new reality must be plausible at some level.
  • Start living with this reality, and gathering evidence that supports that it is true.
  • Disregard all evidence that disproves this reality.

And then see what happens over the course of a week. I find it almost scary how easy it is to find the evidence I need to prove something radically different.

Ideas Workshop: Randomness

calendar

I missed this week’s workshop due to a random unplanned business trip. Fortunately, my colleage Nick Wai filled me in on the random calendar exercise:

  1. To build a calendar with a random word for each day (ie. have fun flipping through the dictionary.)
  2. Then, incorporate each day’s word into a daily theme of something to vary in your day. For example, if the word was color, you might try wearing a different color.

The concept of randomness is that introducing random words and ideas into our thoughts increase our capability of forming new and novel connections in our minds.

I haven’t tried this yet, but I will do so and report my success. I just hope I don’t pick a word like stethoscope.

Mind-chatter exercise

powercord

Creativity & Personal Mastery has started again. This week’s exercise is to record our mind-chatter throughout the day. It is a very powerful reminder of how unproductive our thoughts can be. The objective is not to get rid of the mind-chatter, just to observe it.

A brilliant example of how useless mind-chatter can be:

I purchased a power-cord for my computer, paid in cash, didn’t ask for a receipt, and when I returned home and plugged it in, I discovered it was a dud.

My mind chatter began exploring the scenario of returning the item, and soon it was worrying about potential problems from not having a receipt. I actually started to feel angry at these mythical future attendants for refusing my request without a receipt – and worse, kept repeating the story in my head.

And continued repeating it for about 2-3 days… until I had a chance to return to the store. Of course, they exchanged it without any questions, leaving me to question why I had created all this completely useless mind-chatter to begin with.

Learnings:

  • Follow-up idea #3: Use the mind-chatter exercise to notice when you are repeatedly worrying about stupid things. Especially things that aren’t likely to happen in the future that won’t impact your life if they did.
  • Reminder #1: If you won’t remember it in a year, it is not that important.
  • Usability tip #6: Observing is just that – watching the thought, noticing the sensations, and accepting what is there without trying to change it. I find this difficult, as if I have a built in habit to try and fix what I don’t like. Unfortunately this just creates tension rather then to dissolve the undesirable state.

Ideas Workshop: Combinations

combine
In round 2 of the Ideas Workshop we explored idea creation through combinations. The exercises included:

  1. Taking two disjoint ideas and combine them in as many ways as possible.
  2. Combining unrelated images and captions.
  3. Word creation: on one sheet of paper, make a list of word beginnings around a theme, one per line, on the right edge going down the paper. On a second sheet, make a list of independent word endings going down the left. Then put these two pieces of paper together, and slide them past each other to create novel combinations on the fly.

Take-aways

  • Usability tip #5: When writing word beginnings and word endings on separate sheets, use two people working independently to get the most creative combinations.
  • Side-benefit #6: Combining items saves you the trouble of having to come up with original ideas. The creative output becomes the combination of other people’s work.

London Creativity Night kick-off

group
As part of “Do something you’ve always wanted to, but never got around to” month we held the first ever London Creativity Night tonight at the famous Garrison Public House.

The evening was filled with brainstorming and idea generation, building on “sketch-your-ideas”, by introducing the SCAMPER technique:

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Magnify / Modify
  • Put to other uses
  • Eliminate
  • Re-arrange / Reverse

Key learnings from the night:

  • Usability tip #4: When running group exercises, make sure to have very clear, concise instructions. Anything else just leads to chaos and confusion.
  • Side-benefit #5: Gathering ideas in a group gives momentum to brainstorming, as people inspire each other and offer new perspectives.
  • Follow-up idea #2: Varying the venue and type of activity of the creativity group could be very stimulating. For example, meet in a museum, have a guest speaker or invite a creative professional join.
  • Time saver #2: Use pre-made power-point slides where possible to quickly distribute information on exercises without wasting paper.

Observation exercise

photo

Painting is a unique opportunity watch a picture unfold on the page. Visually, we experience color and tone everywhere, but our mind quickly translates these images into words and concepts to understand and interact with them. Soon as we label an object, “the tree”, “a bus”, “Mr. Anderson”… the unique experience is gone.

One exercise I enjoy is to sit and look at a common object, like a jacket – and try to see it, not as a jacket, but as I actually see it. To look at the color and tone, patterns and textures… without labeling it. Even colors are a deceptive label. A shiny black jacket is rarely black, but an intricate subtle reflection of various colors in the environment. The objective is to look until you no longer see the object, but see what you are seeing.

  • Usability tip #3: If you have trouble dropping labels, then try this: describe the object. Then, question your descriptions and look for the opposite For example, when you see black, ask yourself “how is it not black?”
  • Side-benefit #4: Observing without labeling has the effect of bring me into the present moment, heightening my sensations and sharpening my awareness. This is useful for creativity.