Think Wrong

“In the creative process, designers are victims of their own synaptic connections; subconsciously we’re following predictable pathways to solve problems [whereas] what you would want at the beginning of a design challenge is as many possibilities as you could imagine. ‘Thinking wrong’ is really about breaking those biases and synaptic pathways to generate a lot of potential solutions before you select and execute one.”

– John Bielenberg on Design Indaba.

I’m in a design class called Social Innovations. It’s an interesting and eye opening class because we are being taught to think differently to get better solutions. After attending a workshop today, led by Ryan Clifford, I thought I could pass some words of advice along. The most important rule:


Now if you’re a list maker, a planner, a realist (etc.), then you may have just experienced a minor heart attack or shortness of breath. Don’t worry because I’m just like you. I was taken aback by this at first, but trust me…it works.

TW2My professor, Tyler, has us do readings each week to help us understand effective design methods. One of the readings describes how creatives/designers are at an advantage because we can think differently. Or in the words of Ryan Clifford, we can connect B to Shoe to a Circle with smell lines above it. We’ve got skill.

So how can you think wrong? Well luckily for you there really isn’t a wrong way to do it, but here are some tips based on the workshop I took part in.


1. Brainstorm: write down as many things as you can, for these three categories, about your topic. There is nothing too crazy, too silly, to ridiculous. As long as you understand why it connects, you are solid.

  • I know ______ (about my topic)
  • I think________
  • They say_______

2. Activities: Do these to get the juices flowing

  • Turn to a random page in the dictionary and pick a word (or start with a word related to your topic) and make a mind map of all the random things your mind jumps to when you think of this. (Our word was snaffle).
  • Write a 12 word alliteration starting with one of the words on your mind map
  • Write an entire A-Z alphabet of words incorporating one of the words on your mind map. Bonus points if your alphabet makes a sentence.

Don’t know what a mind map is? Here is an example.


3. Random and fun: follow these steps with a group

  • Take pictures of each group member. Call out a random prompt and have them make a face to describe it.
    • Prompt suggestions: You are the meanest girl in school, you just found out that you’re allergic to chocolate, your senior professor just told you they lost all your credits and you’d have to restart college as a freshman, you are a nerdy spaceman. Get creative.
  • Have each group member write an outlandish statement of something they’d want to do, with their non dominant hand, in 10 words. It does should not be realistic.
    • Example: I want to….live in a hobbit hole and eat swedish fish for breakfast.
  • Now randomly pair the funny pictures with the random ‘I want to’ statements. You’ll read the sayings in a whole new light. This could be a great icebreaker for a team or classroom project.

Don’t believe that we actually did this? Well, here’s proof.


4. Come up with something usable

  • Write a name and motto for whatever you are brainstorming for
  • Pick a theme song
  • Write a haiku about it
  • Pitch your idea in only 6 words. (Ours today was, Don’t throw up; get towed up).

So how does this apply to you?

Don’t let normalcy make you into a boring and non creative person. Allow yourself to expand and think completely outside the box. By doing exercises like these, you are more likely to spark an idea that could be ‘great’ instead of just ‘good.’

Want some more awesome resources? Click here and read!

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