“Today, you are going to make a bicycle.”
This was the only direction the 53 students received.
To be clear, the students are not making a bike as we know it, a tangible object. Instead, students go out into their courtyard and figure out they could collaborate to physically make a bike in human form.
Tableaux vivants, living pictures, are silent and motionless groups of people arranged to represent a scene or incident. They were popular in the 1800s and are often a component of improv classes today. The making of human scenes that replicate famous paintings, movie scenes or events freeze a physical depiction of a moment in time.
Throw creative license into a creativity class and this group of students decided their living picture should move. Makes sense. After all, one of the main features of a bicycle is that it moves.
So, what might be all the ways to make a bicycle in human form? That is what the students had to figure out. The purpose of the question is to develop creative thinking and leadership skills.
First, making a human bike is a very ambiguous challenge. Tolerance for ambiguity is key to becoming a creative thinker. There are two kinds of problems, linear and open-ended. Certainly, there are many sequential processes in hospitality. In developing leadership skills, processes for resolving challenges that are both unclear and have many possible solutions is a key 21st-century skills.
So how did they do it? Here’s the creativity ground rules for generating lots of possibilities.
First, defer judgment. The task could be crazy, unclear and questionable. Unless it’s two plus two and clearly sequential, a lot of life both professionally and personally is ambiguous. Deferring judgment reflects a growth mindset and openness to what might be. Make decisions well after a lot of options have been uncovered.
Second, strive for quantity. In quantity, there is quality. Coming up with great ideas is formulaic and called the rule of thirds. The first third ideas are obvious. The second third are a bit of a stretch, but still pretty familiar. It is in the last third that something novel emerges. In quantity there is quality.
Third, seek wild and unusual ideas. The task may be crazy; the solution may be unclear. For creative thinking to work its magic, it's important to go for it when brainstorming or ideating. Osborn, who coined the term Brainstorming, said it’s easier to tame a wild idea than to invigorate a weak one. Stretch thinking for wild ideas when looking for something new. The answer is likely in that last third.
Fourth and last, build on others' ideas. It is in combining, improving and building up possible options that a rich pool of thoughts becomes a critical resource from which crafting the end goal becomes easier.
Tanya Knudsen teaches Creativity Through English, a course that combines problem-solving skills with English language learning for 21st-century professional readiness at Wings of Change, a vocational hospitality school and hotel at the flagship property at Nosy-Be, Madagascar.