Posts in Category: Ideas

Ideas Anonymous #10

We explored lots of ideas to enhance experiences at Ideas Anonymous #10 last night.

Here are the ideas that were shared:

  • Augmented reality to visualise ingredients on food menus 
  • Foldable Kneeling Chair
  • Interactive virtual music experiences to support artists
  • Gathering of Beautiful Places, an immersive experience to explore and share your favourite places
  • Discussion around if we are getting too numb in the face of a crisis

If you would like to find out more about these ideas and like get in touch with the ideators, leave a message at Vast Experiences.

We had an engaging discussion around feeling numb in the face of crises such as COVID or Climate Change. The importance of balancing broader facts with stories of individuals was highlighted and stories were shared about the COVID cluster in a Western Sydney Nursing home and about implications of the drying up of the Colorado River.

Other things that came up in conversation

Mr Yum, Burning Seed, Isol-Aid!, Amy Churchhouse’s Connection Exploration,

Upcoming Events: Early Work Crew, Curiosity Walks

If you like to come to Ideas Anonymous #11 you can sign up here. Feel free to pass the invite around to friends that may be interested.

Ideas Anonymous #9

We explored lots of ideas around education at Ideas Anonymous #9 last night.

Here are the ideas that were shared:

  • High-vis fashion for cyclists
  • Interactive bookclub for indigenous literature   
  • Educational resources to support financial literacy of women in Pakistan
  • Platform to eat healthy and support the environment
  • Greenhouses as co-working spaces
  • Curiosity Walks to rediscover awe and wonder and explore

If you would like to find out more about these ideas and like get in touch with the ideators, drop leave a message at Vast experiences

Things that came up in conversation: Joost Bakker, Curiosity Walk, Startup Weekend, Sand Talk, Perfect Motion

Upcoming Event’s: Amy Churchhouse’s Connection Exploration, Early Work Crew

If you like to come to Ideas Anonymous #10 you can sign up here. Feel free to pass the invite around to friends that may be interested.

How to make discoveries…

Deep down, I am an explorer at heart. There is this sense of joy in finding things out and making discoveries. As Tyson Yunkaporta describes it in Sand Talk, “If people are laughing they are learning. True learning is a joy because it is an act of creation ”[1]. A lot of us enjoy these little Aha-moments when you realise Ah, I get it now. According to David Deutsch in Beginning of Infinity, It’s our ability to understand, explain and make discoveries that make us human [2]. If you are able to understand you become more alive. You can make discoveries in lots of different areas. I was pondering on how to combine existing frameworks and conditions to make it more likely to discover something for yourself or the world. Here are some thoughts on how to make your discovery engine work.

Start with a purpose

A combustion engine is a good analogy. You need a spark plug to start your engine. The spark is your purpose combined with your curiosity. If you like to create something meaningful it’s very helpful to define a purpose upfront to guide your curiosity. It will keep you in sync with the topic you are exploring. Have a look at Simon Sinek’s work to find out more about the importance of purpose [3].

Open and Focus

At the heart of a combustion engine is a chamber that compresses and expands fuel and thereby moves a shaft. This combination of expansion and compression or open and close is quite fascinating. Just as you are thinking about this now, there is a set of neurons in your brain diverging the communication in different directions searching for analogies and meaning why that is just to converge your thoughts again, as described by Douglas Hofstadter in Surfaces and Essences [4].

So let us have a look if this combination of opening and closing can be used to make discoveries. In design thinking and brainstorming you use activities for divergent thinking to create many ideas followed by activities for convergent thinking to choose the best ideas [5]. In a way, you are opening and expanding and then you are closing and focussing.

 

Just creating choices and making choices probably may lead you to some discoveries but a lot of discoveries may be accidental because your choices are not informed. So how can we extend our model a bit?

Let’s Play

Let us introduce another element into our process. We need some time to explore, play and experiment with our choices to make more informed decisions. If you think of an engine again, it needs some play to move. Equally, we need to give your thoughts permission to play and explore, connecting them to other thoughts. Think of it as playing lego with your thoughts. You build some things in your head and then you decide to save good ideas. Down below I have illustrated what the process could look like. You open your mind, explore and play with your thoughts and then close in on your idea.

 

If this process looks very familiar to you, it’s because you can find it in a lot of places. Take scientific method [6] for example You research the field and define a hypothesis (open). You design a method, perform an experiment and obtain some results (explore/play), then you discuss the results, put them into context to conclude (close). If you think of most movies, plays, novels or stories in general, they have a beginning (open), where the characters and their world are defined, a middle (explore/play) where the characters explore and play with another and the world (explore/play) and a conclusion that wraps up the story (close). You can find a beautiful description of this in Gamestorming by James Macanufo and Sunni Brown [7].

It’s almost that we perceive most of the content in this fashion. Why is that? Maybe it has to do with our environment. Each spring the Earth opens up and lots of plants start growing and the world is in full bloom in summer (play/explore) and in autumn and winter lots of plants shrink or die and lots of animals go into hibernation (close). Each day we wake up and make a plan about what we are going to do (open), then we do the things we do (explore/play) before we wrap up the day (close) just to do it again. This is actually a good transition to the next section. Now that we have the basic framework of our discovery engine, let’s see if we can turn it on.

Give me some feedback

An old German proverb is: Übung macht den Meister — practising makes one a master. When you try to learn something like playing an instrument, it’s not only the repetition of the process but each time some learning gets fed back into the process. Now to improve any process, you need to collect feedback from the previous round and apply it to the next time you run the process. Most of the time design is an iterative process as well, multiple loops of divergent thinking, exploration and convergent thinking. Now you have a framework that allows you to get better at what you are doing, but how can you make discoveries?

 

Surprise yourself

A closed feedback loop process is pretty efficient if you like to develop things further, but not so much for making discoveries. Once we have the process going, we need to open it up, introduce some unexpected surprises, like perturbations or change some of the boundary conditions. This can be a change in the environment, e.g. that all meetings are shifted to the virtual space because of a global pandemic, and surprisingly they get more engaging because a broader range of people can now attend. If you want to make discoveries you can add these changes artificially by adding concepts and ideas from different fields to your process. It is advantageous to include people from different disciplines to work together to find meaningful changes you can make.

 

Interestingly, improv theatre embraces a similar method using “Yes, and…” at its core [8]. The “Yes” basically means you are agreeing with your scene partner which keeps the feedback loop going and the “and…” adds new information about the characters, their relationship or the environment and thus creating very colourful scenes. Using the scientific method you try to ask novel questions. Most of the time by combining knowledge out of different fields, leading to a shift in perspective that lets you discover things that you couldn’t see before.

Coming back to the analogy of the engine. Adding a surprise is a bit like stepping down on the pedal to inject new fresh fuel into the system to let you go to places you haven’t been before.

Explain and Provide Access

Finally, try to explain your learnings and share them with others so that they can build on top of them and make more discoveries. I sometimes think of ideas as people. You conceive them, you nurture them but at some point, they need to stand on their legs, so that they can explore and change the world and combine with other ideas to generate new ideas and views.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed my little exploration around how to make discoveries and all the little analogies. The process is inspired by the ideas of lots of people. I added some references at the end if you like to investigate further. Hopefully, the article has sparked some thoughts about the topic in you. Here is the discovery process in condensed form:

1. Be curious and define your purpose
2. Open your mind and heart to information and people
3. Embark on a playful exploration
4. Focus on what you learned and put it into context
5. Explain and share your learnings
6. Take your learnings and add something unexpected
7. Feed back your learnings and the novel aspect into the process and start again

During the whole process be present and pay attention to changes in details and the bigger context. Sooner or later you will discover something exciting for yourself and others.

If you liked this article please share it so that others can enjoy it too. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback about the topic. Please comment below or get in touch directly.

If you like to stay in touch with Vast Experiences come to one of our events and subscribe to our newsletter or follow and like us on social media of your choice (LinkedInTwitterInstagramFacebook, Medium).

Have a wonderful day and don’t forget:

Only if we can see the world in different ways, we will see how it really is.
Only if we can see ourselves in different ways, we will see who we really are.

References

Here are some books and websites that provided ideas and insights this article was built upon

[1] Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World by Tyson Yunkaporta
[2] The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch
[3] Start with Why by Simon Sinek
[4] Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking by Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander
[5] Design Thinking — brainstorming through the ‘Ideation’ phase by Nima Torabi
[6] Steps of the Scientific method
[7] Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by James Macanufo and Sunni Brown
[8] Getting to Yes And by Bob Kulhan

Structuring Value

“Expand your Horizons”​ by Olga Dziemidowicz of art-by-olga.com

One of my favorite activities is to create spaces and experiences we humans can be our true selves, flourish and gain new perspectives to see themselves and the world around us in new ways. All of us walk around perceiving our own versions of reality. Essentially, there are 7.8 billion humans ways to experience the same world. In other words there are 7.8 billion different worlds existing in our heads. I think it’s an exceedingly beautiful thing to imagine that there all of these versions existing in our minds. Not only that, but there are also 7.8 billion versions of you as seen by every human on this planet. Of course, your own version of the world and of yourself is the most important one to you but all other 7,799,999,999 are valid. There is an enormous value to expand your horizon and explore the different versions of you.

My mission with Vast Experiences is to make these different versions of the world and of you accessible to you. These are two mantras that are very close to my heart:

Only if we can see the world in different ways, we will see how it really is. 
Only if we can see ourselves in different ways, we will see who we really are. 

One of the best ways to gain a new perspective is to have deep and honest interactions with other humans. At Vast Experiences I’m exploring different approaches to foster these interactions human connections.

On Value

I love helping people to add more value to their lives and have been pondering over what the best way to do this would look like. Yesterday, I had an interesting idea. What if I focus on what is adding value to my life and share it with others. What adds value to my life? 

Play: I’m a pretty playful person. I enjoy setting myself little challenges and toy around with others.

Growth: I’m a pretty curious person. I enjoy getting a better understanding of the world and people and things in it. 

Creating: I’m a pretty inventive person. I enjoy coming up with ideas and turning them into reality.

People, People, People: I’m a pretty social person. I enjoy creating spaces we connect in meaningful ways and belong.

Ironically these are all pretty great ingredients to gain a new perspective. The circle completes itself. Whoa! I shouldn’t be surprised. 

How can we put these into practise?

When I was a kid I used to play lots with Lego. What may sound unusual for some is that my parents spent hours with me sorting my legos into lots of boxes with little compartments. The pieces were sorted by shape and color so that when I wanted to build something I could easily find the right pieces. If you have things structured it’s easier to work. Great insight.

Science

Structure comes in very handy when performing scientific experiments. The scientific method is probably one of the most important things I learned in uni. First, you come up with an idea that forms your hypothesis, then you design a method for your experiment to test your hypothesis. You run the experiment and get results and you discuss the results to form some conclusions and put them in context for further research. Then you publish and repeat the process. The usual order of a scientific paper is: 

  • Idea/Hypothesis: Definition of what is to be tested.
  • Method: Research and selection of ways to carry out experiments. 
  • Experiment/Results: This where the discoveries are made.
  • Discussion: Putting the results into context.
  • Conclusion: Summing up findings and propose new investigations.

Improv

Here is an interesting stretch. When I played improv comedy in Chicago we learned the most popular long-form improv format called Harold. The legend goes something like this: Del Close, the founding father of long-form improv wanted his students to play as freely as possible. However, his students ask him for some structure to play along and he gave them the Harold format. A Harold is structured in the following way:

  • Opening: The 8 players in the Harold team ask the audience for a word and then create an opening based on the word that will define the theme for the show. 
  • 1st Beat: 3 scenes that create 3 independent worlds based on the theme of the show.
  • Group game with all 8 players
  • 2nd Beat: 3 scenes that explore each world based on the theme of the show. This is usually where are discoveries happen.
  • Group game with all 8 players
  • 3rd Beat: 3 scenes where the different worlds overlap and get put into context. It often ends with a conclusion relating to the theme of the show.

While I was in Chicago taking a five-week improv intensive, it dawned on me how similar the structure of the Harold is to a scientific paper. 

  • Opening – Idea/Hypothesis: Definition of what will be explored.
  • 1st Beat – Method: Selecting and setting up the environment to make discoveries.
  • 2nd Beat – Experiment/Results: Using the environment to make discoveries.
  • 3rd Beat – Discussion/Conclusion: Putting discoveries into context for further exploration.

Whoa! I shouldn’t be surprised. This is probably how our brains have learned to think in these kinds of stories for millennia. 

Getting back it to the original question. How do we put play, growing, creating and people this into practise? 

What we if map them onto the Harold/scientific method:

  • Opening – Playful Ideas 
  • 1st Beat – Growing Methods
  • 2nd Beat – Creative Experiments 
  • 3rd Beat – Connected Discussions 

Now that looks like some interesting building blocks. You can tell I played with a lot of Lego as a kid 🙂

How do I fit these blocks to my day?

My friend Haley Johnson, recently published her work ethic in a Linked post. She breaks up her day into 90 min deep work chunks, where you only focus on a single or few tasks without any distractions. I got inspired to create my own schedule.

  • 6:15 AM: Wake up and shower
  • 6:30 AM: Meditate
  • 7 AM – 9 AM: Deep work session 1 with the Early Work Crew
  • 9 – 9:30 AM: Breakfast
  • 9:30 – 11 AM: Deep work session 2
  • 11 – 12 PM: Curiosity Walk or Cycle and lunch
  • 12 – 1:30 PM: Deep work session 3
  • 1:30 – 3 PM: Meetings and admin
  • 3 PM – 4:30 PM: Summarising my findings of the day and publishing them 

Finally, I can insert my building blocks into the structure:

  • 6:15 AM: Wake up and shower
  • 6:30 AM: Meditate
  • 7 AM – 9 AM: Deep work session 1 (Playful Ideas) with the Early Work Crew
  • 9 – 9:30 AM: Breakfast
  • 9:30 – 11 AM: Deep work session 2 (Growing Methods)
  • 11 – 12 PM: Curiosity Walk or Cycle and lunch
  • 12 – 1:30 PM: Deep work session 3 (Creative Experiments)
  • 1:30 – 3 PM: Meetings and admin (Connected Discussions)
  • 3 PM – 4:30 PM: Summarising my findings of the day and publishing them 

I thought it would be cool to experiment with this format for the next few months and I will see where it will take me. I will keep you updated on my findings on Vast Experiences. Here is the one for the first day.

Wow, that was a lot. Thanks for reading. Let me know if any of this resonates with you.

This article was originally published on Vast Experiences. Stay in the loop and sign up for the Vast Experiences newsletter here.

Ideas Anonymous

Last night we had our first Ideas Anonymous, the place to discuss ideas. It was so much fun. I loved how open the group was and how different the ideas were. Some of the ideas we discussed were: a decentralised library of things, new ticket systems for events, new ways to engage with people in different suburbs, a washing machine that recycles water, a furniture subscription service, a new way to recycle clothes, a music album to raise money for charity events, a children’s book about animals in the city and a booklet on how to scale your business mindfully. Let me if you like to find out more about the ideas and I can put you in touch with the ideators.

Lots of feedback was given, ideas clarified and many connections made to propel the ideas forward.

The next Ideas Anonymous will be on March 4th. Sign up here to bounce around your ideas: https://events.humanitix.com.au/ideasanonymous