That's Just Not Practical!

I was working with a group on creative processes to unleash their innovative ideas. They had been doing things the same way for a number of years and were ready to take a giant leap forward with some new approaches to their company and their responsibilities.  We played with a few exercises and were filling out a random word chart.  A list of random words filled the first column and all of the other cells on the table were blank. I asked the participants to fill in the chart by looking at the first word in each row and to write anything that came to mind in the boxes as they went across the page.  Smirks, sighs, a few laughs but mostly focused writing took place in the room. After a few minutes I invited them to put down their pens and listen to a story.  

I told the tale of a group of people that were brought together to solve a problem up north of ice on power lines that was causing the lines to break.  The invitees were asked to walk about the hotel grounds of their meeting site and bring back a half dozen items that they came across.  One fellow picked up some honey in the gift shop and brought that back to the meeting along with, like his coworkers, several other random objects.  They were instructed to fill in the first column of a chart with the names of these objects, similar to the one my group had before them.  Then they filled out the chart going across the page with the first random thoughts that came to mind.  The fellow that had purchased the honey wrote down "bear", "sweet", "beignets' (after all - he was originally from the south) among other words. The group then went to work, thinking about the ice line problem using the random words on their chart to inspire them and discussed the possibilities. After a while, one person suggested "they could put honey at the top of each pole and bears would be attracted to it, they would climb the poles to get the honey and the poles would shake from the bear's weight and knock the ice off the lines!"   Further discussion led to them to the idea of flying helicopters over the lines so the vibration would shake the lines and release the ice - problem solved!

You can read a different take on the honey story at

After sharing this story with my group, I suggested they work on their own organizational issues using the random words in their charts. Several of the groups started working on it right away and quickly moved from nonsense ideas to some thoughts that they might actually be able to implement.  As I moved about the room I noticed a group that appeared stuck. I queried what issues they were contemplating and used a few of their random words to suggest some new ideas. One young lady replied "that's just not practical".  I agreed with her but reminded her of the honey and the bear and suggested that some of their impractical ideas might just lead to something they could implement.  She agreed that was possible and they attacked their issues with a new enthusiasm.

That's just not practical!  Sometimes not - but that's why I like it.