Tag Archives: improvisation

How an escalator can inspire ideas

You know what it’s like, you’ve been working on an idea or challenge for ages and you’ve reached the point where your mind is bogged down and you’re not moving forward anymore. This is the point when getting ‘fresh eyes’, a different perspective will help your thoughts move again.

For inspiration on looking at situations from a different perspective, have a look at this TED Talk from Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere:

This video shows that when you look at your surroundings with fully open, fresh eyes (and mind), the everyday location or situation (such as an escalator) can be transformed in a way which lifts the spirits.

After watching Charlie Todd’s TED Talk I wiped away the tears of laughter from my now (re)freshed eyes and realised how important this kind of approach to the world is for idea generation and development. Todd stands back from the things we see in everyday life (an escalator), and looks at them from a different perspective (a captive audience who would welcome entertainment). If you can stand back from your idea and look at it from a different perspective, you might be amazed with the results.

Techniques which can help you gain a different perspective could be: considering your challenge from a child’s point of view; representing your idea in LEGO; just going for a long walk and forgetting about it for a while. Anything which prompts you to look at your idea from a different angle will work.

How do you get ‘fresh eyes’? I would love to know your techniques for gaining new perspectives on challenges.



Adopting a Thai view of life

The Thai word for fun is ‘sanuk’ (สนุก). In Thai culture this has a much broader and far reaching meaning than in English culture. It expresses the sense of finding or creating fun/satisfaction in any situation or task.

In this picture, for example, the men are trying to unscrew the pipe. They turned it into a game by trying to find the most inventive form of leverage, laughing all the while.

I was reminded of this Thai perspective when I went to a recent Applied Improvisation Network workshop in London.

We had the task of improvising a game to solve a particular workplace problem. Our group was tackling poor levels of cleanliness in a coffee shop. Cleaning-what a tiresome job. Not so! We devised a game using different noises to represent different cleaning jobs, and a noise to celebrate when the cleaning was completed. So, someone spots a table needs cleaning, makes the table cleaning noise and whoever is free or nearest does it, repeats the noise when it’s done, and then everyone makes the celebrating noise.

The result was a noisy, fast moving game with a sense of group achievement – and lots of laughing! This really encapsulates sanuk – you can find fun/satisfaction even from cleaning.

This workshop also made me realise that the flow of ideas is easier if you are looking at the task/problem from a gameplaying point of view. So what challenges can you turn into a game?