Creative Thinking Clubs

Many years ago, after reading piles of books from Edward de Bono, Roger von Oech and several others, I decided to take things seriously.

Together with a good friend and my brother, I started a creative thinking club. The primary goal of our little club was to practise and improve our creative thinking skills. Every two weeks we would meet and practise several thinking techniques for about an hour. We did not try to solve anything. All exercises were merely for practice. The outcome was irrelevant.

If you are at all serious about getting more creative, I urge you to do the same. Find some like-minded people and set it up. Creative thinking is a skill. Like any skill, you need to practise to learn it, to get better at it and to stay in shape. Train your brain and stay sharp.

Don’t worry though; you don’t have to invest many precious hours (as we all know you are terribly busy and hardly get to see your family as it is). One hour every two weeks is enough.

These measly sixty minutes do not only sharpen your thinking skills… if you’ve managed to bring together a group of interesting people the hour is also very inspiring and lots of fun!

Now, before you run off to assemble a thinking club team, let me give you some pointers:

1. Don’t force anyone to join
Being a member of a thinking club should be 100% voluntary. So don’t force your employees to join your delightful thinking sessions. They might start resenting you for it, and more importantly; they will not be committed and will bring down the atmosphere.

2. Commit yourselves to meet at a set day, at a set time.
For instance: every 1st and 3rd Friday of the month, at 8 pm. For if every single session is preceded by a discussion about what day suits everybody best, planning the sessions will soon turn into a tedious task. Picking a set day and time will bring structure. Stick to it and remind each other why it is important to honour the pre-arranged date and time.

3. One hour, and not a minute longer.
If sessions start to exceed the set time, as the group clearly is ‘on fire’, a training session soon starts to turn into a problemsolving session. This sounds great, but it is not what these sessions are meant for. The main goal of the thinking club is to train your creative thinking skills in a safe and fun environment. Keep it that way and resist the temptation to keep going when it’s time.

4. Choose just one or two thinking techniques per session
To practise sufficiently with a certain technique you want to do a couple of exercises. One exercise is probably not going to cut it. Practise the same technique in different ‘teams’ (and individually) and think about different challenges.

5. Don’t be too serious
While the goal of these sessions is pretty serious (we’re talking about some essential skills here), you should not be afraid to suggest ideas that make your fellow participants laugh out loud. And if you’re the one organising the meeting, don’t worry about adding a ridiculous challenge. To keep things fun it’s important to have something to laugh about from time to time.

If you abide by the ‘rules’ above, you’re set to have some great sessions. Yet, you probably also want some guidelines for creating a compelling program…

– Introduction
Always start with a brief introduction. The person organising the meeting should briefly explain how the relevant thinking technique works. Also, the rules of the session should be made clear.

– Exercises
Try out different exercises per technique. Work on a different challenge in each round, and vary the composition of the teams every time. Try a technique individually, in duos, in trios or plenary. Don’t forget to set a time limit for each exercise. 3-5 minutes per round is plenty of time. Time limits are liberating. Every participant knows exactly how long they have to jot down ideas and the limited time will prevent people from over-thinking their ideas. Share all ideas at the end of each round.

– Discussion
Once you’ve practised with the technique, share your experiences. Was using the technique easy or hard …and why? What are some advantages and what are clear disadvantages? Discuss in what situations the technique might be most valuable.

– Practise-challenges
At the end of the session, leave some time for every participant to individually write down some possible challenges to use in the next meeting. If you do this at the end of every session, you’ll quickly build an impressive archive of practice challenges.

– ‘Homework’
End with reminding the group about the subject of the next meeting. Depending on the experience of the group, you could add some light ‘homework’. For instance: ask everybody to read a relevant chapter of a book on thinking techniques (like Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius or De Bono’s Thinking Course) or one of the articles on this website.

These basics should get you started on your journey to become a true creative genius. Good luck and have fun!

Flickr Creative Commons Image via JD Hancock.

If you’re interested in an example program for a thinking session as described above, please leave your email below. We’ll be more than happy to send you a one hour program for your first thinking club meeting.

Free Thinking Club Program

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