Practical creativity

Creative thinking for practical projects.

The design and development of an idea or a project can require a lot of creative thinking at a practical level, especially if you do not have many ideas on what needs to be done next, or you know you are missing something.

Here we look at how we can use the imagination practically to fill in any parts of a project/idea we have not fully understood, to look at those knowledge gaps that still need to be resolved. The supporting topics of Imagination basics and Chaos may help with the challenge of designing.  

Before we can really get going with the imagination we need to prepare for it. The Preparation page looks at what needs to be done before the imagination can really get to work.

Practical areas for your imagination

Your imagination can be used to fill knowledge gaps in many different ways (The designing of a bridge across a gap will be used as a simple example)

Linking ideas
Using your imagination to find the connections between ideas/designs that do not have an obvious way of linking with each other. Your imagination can stretch between these different aspects to find those possible connections 
Bridge building: The components for the bridge are around you. Now you need to figure out how they all link together.

Fitting in 
How does it fit in with everything else it is required to engage with to succeed. Your imagination can look at what surrounds it and how to get it to fit in with it all. 
Bridge building: What impact does the surrounding landscape have on the bridge? Will it be easy to connect to the land at either end of the bridge? Are there any other influences that may affect the bridge, such as wind strength? 

Moving forward 
How can you find a way ahead when a problem is encountered. Your imagination can look at how to progress when things get stuck
Bridge building: The bridge did not meet in the middle…

Designing with imagination

Once all of the known aspects are in place, then comes the task of spotting the knowledge gaps. These gaps will then identify the places where the imagination must step in to fill them.

The following steps are sequential to allow them to flow as a guide, but all may not be relevant to your needs, just takes the ones you want. 

  1. Look at what is known about the knowledge gap. Make a list of everything that is known to be missing in this gap. If there are actions that it should be doing then list all of the actions that you can initially identify. But don’t waste too much time, once you run out of ideas, then move on. (Bridge building: Opps! There is a missing bit in the middle)
  2. Make notes on how it should link with the rest of the project/ideas. Look at how it connects with other aspects of the project, what is missing for it to operate with those other aspects? This connecting information should, hopefully, be fully defined in those already existing aspects – basically you are information gathering rather than thinking up original ideas with this step. (Bridge building: it should connect with the road of its neighbouring bit of the bridge)
  3. Repeat the above step for all of its neighbours Obtain this information from everything it engages with before you try and go any further. You should end up with a list of requirements for each neighbouring aspect (Bridge building: there are two sides of the bridge it needs to connect with, plus a supporting leg it needs to use to cross over)
  4. Look for any commonality between its neighbours There are times where, once you have all of the aspects for how it should link to a neighbour, the details from that neighbour may help you to understand what you need to be doing and possibly how it can be used with a different neighbour. (Bridge building: the two matching neighbouring sides are built with the same materials(metal), maybe it needs to use them to? How does it relate to the odd one out (concrete))
  5. Look for any differences between its neighbours How do they differ? If there is a difference then you will need to start using your imagination to work out how you cope with those differences and any transfer of information between them that your gap must handle (Bridge building: The shape of the neighbouring bits of bridge are not the same. One is wider than the other)
  6. Armed with all this information, step inside your knowledge gap and start playing with it Now you need to find a quiet place and start bringing all of this information you have gathered and use your imagination to bring them together and fill the gap so it becomes a real part of the project/idea (Bridge building: Work out the design to get between the other bridge parts, what you need to build it with, where to find those items, …)

IMPORTANT: you may need to reiterate this, breaking it down bit by bit to finally fill in all of the missing knowledge.

General Tips

You do not have to have a strong imagination to start your practical creative thinking for you can use clues around you to give you ideas. Observation is all you need to get you started on this path. Just look at what is around you, there may be something there that can be used for your starting ideas

Talking ideas through can get the ball rolling. Even if it is just a fragment of an idea, discussing it can expand into something worth working with.

Short notes on the purpose of the thinking
Jot down the basics of what you are trying to achieve. Not long sentences, just enough for you to understand what the purpose is for that idea. It may help using a fresh page/section for each different idea, that way it allows you to return to it and add more details later.

Linking your thinking
If you have several short ideas/notes, see if you can identify any common or shared aspects and put them together. You can build up quite big ideas from linking several small ones together  

Check your imaginative ideas more than once
Stepping though the ideas you have had is worth doing on another day before anything goes into practice.

If you can, then discuss them with others.
Having others review your ideas can help to spot any minor gaps in your thinking.  


 Jenny Maryl ~  Inspiring the Imagination ~ Contact Me


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