Picking One From Infinity

03.20.2014 |

tech

It is common to believe that creative people hate limitations and we all want “free range” when it comes to developing ideas.  However, have you ever had to come up with an idea on the spot with no limitations? Was it also a good one? It’s a lot harder than you think.

When we are given rules, our mind has a jumping off point. When we can do anything though, the mind comes face to face with infinity. It’s our job to tell our mind what is the right idea out of that infinity. (Now that’s a lot to do).

While coming up with a project idea, that is the same problem our group faced. If we can do anything, how the hell do we know we are picking the right one? Well, I am going to share with you how we came about our final decision to do an online animated series. Here are some tips to pick one out of infinity.

1. Loosen Up!

When facing infinity, you may become overwhelmed and blocked. It is important not to discourage any ideas at this point in the game. If you are working in a group trying playing, an improvisation game. We found that playing word association games helped us loosen up. (Like this one) The point of these games are to challenge you to pick one word, out of ALL the words you know. Some may find it harder than they thought. Narrowing down and making quick decisions in this game will help you loosen up and embrace the ideas that come out of that infinity.

2. Write down ALL OF THE ideas

Now that you are loosened up, it’s time to let those ideas flow. Grab a paper and a pencil and write down every idea you have. (Seriously, ALL OF THEM) Our group has pages and pages of ideas. Some of them are just silly, while others are actually pretty great alternatives. No idea is a bad idea. It is just a suggestion of what to avoid. If you write down an idea, and hate it right away, you know to stay away from ones similar to it. If you find you are writing a lot of the same ideas, try to figure out why. What are the common, attractive, aspects of those ideas? Make charts and break down ideas to their key elements. Then make ideas off of those elements. Just get the juices flowing and crank them out! You will fine tune later.

3. Give yourself the rules

Let’s cut down that infinity now! If you don’t have any limitations, make some. Make a list of what you want your final idea to be like, and what you want to stay away from completely.  When you continue trying to come up with ideas, try to meet the requirements for yourself. For example, our group knew we wanted to entertain people and we wanted to be able to continue our work after school. We also knew we did not want to make a 5 minutes animation. We then proceeded to think of things that were funny, continuous but short. That’s how we ended up with an online animated series.  (But with more fuss before that decision was made) Go back to all those ideas from earlier to help make these rules. Now start to weed out the ideas you can leave behind and focus on the ones you are excited about. 

4. Wait for that “Aha” moment

Now, it’s important to take a break. You just battled infinity and you need a rest. Let all your favorite ideas stew inside your head. You’ll find that better ideas will stick with you and gradually grow. Wait until you have the “That’s it!” moment. And if you don’t, just go back to step one. Try some of my favorite exercises from Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko if you are stuck.

We had to repeat these steps a few times before we got to where we are now. It sort of felt like making our way through a jungle while cutting down tall grass and vines. Once you figure out what direction you need to go in though, the worst part is over. There is no longer the option of infinity, just one.

Exercises from Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko: