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The modules in this section provide creative exercises to help your participants understand creativity and how to nurture it.

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Beyond Plain English

Article Overview:
In this thought provoking article, Martin Shovel questions the demand for plainer and plainer English and argues for the need for more evocative, poetic language in order to provoke a reaction in others.

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Article Overview:
In this thought provoking article, Martin Shovel questions the demand for plainer and plainer English and argues for the need for more evocative, poetic language in order to provoke a reaction in others.

Opening Words:
How would your colleagues react if you turned up at the office one day in your pyjamas? Chances are, you’d struggle to get them to take you seriously. And if you tried to carry on as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening, they’d probably begin to question your sanity.

What you wear and when you choose to wear it matters greatly because in most social situations nudity is not an option. In the world of work, for example, the suit is an emblem of neutrality, but you’d get a very odd reaction if you wore one to bed.

When we express ourselves in language, our thoughts are like naked bodies and our words are like the clothes that dress and display them to the world. How you say what you say is as important as what you say – in fact, the two are inseparable. Which is why I have a bit of a problem with the idea of 'Plain English'.

Useful Reading For:
A fascinating read for anyone looking to add impact to their presentations or get their communication noticed.

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Drawing People In

Article Overview:
This is a great article from Martin Shovel, that explains why pictures are so important in communication, and how that knowledge can help the trainer.

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Article Overview:
This is a great article from Martin Shovel, that explains why pictures are so important in communication, and how that knowledge can help the trainer.

Opening Words:
Imagine this nightmare scenario… You're caught short in a foreign city, many miles from home. You don't speak the lingo and they don't speak yours. You're desperate to find the nearest loo. What do you do?

A recent mobile phone TV ad came up with an elegant solution. Before going on your trip, you load pictures of everything you might need onto your mobile camera phone. So now when you feel the urge, relief is at hand. All you have to do is flash a picture of a toilet at a passer-by.

In a situation like this pictures leave words standing – they are the ultimate lingua franca because they resemble the things they represent. In some circumstances a picture can even fool us into believing it is the thing itself. Think of one of those hyper-realistic trompe l'oeil paintings. You know it's only a picture but suddenly a painting of a bowl of fruit makes your mouth water and you're tempted to reach out for a non-existent strawberry. The brushwork looks for all the world like a real strawberry's blood brother but turns out to be a stranger – a case of mistaken identity.

Useful Reading For:
All trainers.

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Drawing Sensation

Article Overview:
In this article, Martin explains how drawings can engage more than just the eyes, and how they can be used to enhance training programmes in ways you may not have previously considered.

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Article Overview:
In this article, Martin explains how drawings can engage more than just the eyes, and how they can be used to enhance training programmes in ways you may not have previously considered.

Opening Words:
Most people who come along to our 'think like a cartoonist' workshops already recognise the value of cartooning as a tool for engaging visual learners. Some of them are keen to develop their drawing and visual thinking skills because they're aware of the predominance of vision over all the other senses. After all, vision is definitely king of the sensory castle, with around half the brain devoted to processing visual information. It’s an astonishing thought that, of the 11 million pieces of information we take in each second through our five senses, 90% of them enter our brains directly through our eyes.

But people attending our workshops are often surprised to discover that cartoons appeal to more than just the visual sense – they can make you feel things, hear things, smell things, even taste things too. In fact, drawing can be a truly multi-sensory tool for teachers, trainers and communicators of all kinds. A bold claim, you might think, so let me back it up with some science.

Useful Reading For:
All trainers.

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Expand Your Ideas - The Easy Way!

Article Overview:
This article, by Mark Forster, shows how to use 'continuous revision' as a tool for generating and developing ideas.

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Article Overview:
This article, by Mark Forster, shows how to use 'continuous revision' as a tool for generating and developing ideas.

Opening Words:
A very powerful way of using continuous revision is in the development of ideas. You can start with a single vague sentence and then by continuous revision develop it until it is a fully fledged concept.

What I am going to do now is to give you an example of how a simple thought can be expanded over a period of days. I’ll show where I get to each day, but of course when doing it for real you don’t need to keep a record of each day. I’m showing the days separately only in order to illustrate how the process works.

So all I need is an idea to develop. Hmmmm . . . . what would be a good one? Ummm….. er….. um…..

Useful Reading For:
Everyone, generating and developing ideas is something we all should be doing.

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Learning to Play or Playing to Learn?

Article Overview:
In this article, Nicki Davey challenges the preconceptions and stereotypes many hold about senior people and encourages all learners to be given the opportunity and permission to play.

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Article Overview:
In this article, Nicki Davey challenges the preconceptions and stereotypes many hold about senior people and encourages all learners to be given the opportunity and permission to play.

Opening Words:
Some years ago I was asked to run a training course for all the staff, managers and trustees of a large charity. I met the CEO to discuss the course and mentioned that I would use a collage-making activity early on in the day to identify and explore some of the key issues and her response was, “But we’ll have senior managers and board members on the course – I really don’t think that cutting and sticking is a suitable activity for them, do you?” My answer was, “Actually, yes, I do”, and I explained to her how collage-making is a whole brain activity involving visual imagery, physical activity, talking and listening, and organising ideas and how it breaks the ice, helps people talk about a difficult subject in a safe way, is a great leveller, and generates a rich discussion. Her response was a somewhat cynical, “Well on your own head be it,” - she clearly thought this was a BAD idea!

Useful Reading For:
All trainers.

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Metaphor and Creativity

Article Overview:
This fascinating article by Martin Shovel and Martha Leyton looks at the power of metaphor, and how the metaphors we use affect our thinking. In particular, the authors look at the metaphors used in the West to explain creativity, and ask if these could be restricting our thinking.

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Article Overview:
This fascinating article by Martin Shovel and Martha Leyton looks at the power of metaphor, and how the metaphors we use affect our thinking. In particular, the authors look at the metaphors used in the West to explain creativity, and ask if these could be restricting our thinking.

Opening Words:
Imagine you are settling down to a long train journey. You reach into your bag and pull out the novel you are reading and just as you are about to take up the story the stranger sitting opposite starts talking to you. You have plenty of time on your hands so you welcome the chance to begin a conversation with her. But how would you respond if she were to start by describing the song of her life or by explaining the painting of her life or even, perhaps, telling you about the recipe of her life? Her behaviour might seem very strange and you would probably feel a growing sense of discomfort and confusion.

Now rewind the tape and start again. This time she begins by telling you the story of her life. Now the experience of listening to her feels comfortable and familiar, and both the content and structure of what she is saying make sense to you. Story is the medium through which we understand and experience our lives and the lives of other people. Stories give our lives their structure and meaning. They help us make sense of the world around us by transforming the constant flux of experience into meaningful patterns. Without stories our existence would be chaotic and ineffectual.

Useful Reading For:
Anyone involved in the creative thinking process.

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Original Sin

Article Overview:
In our view, one of the most interesting articles of 2006. Martin Shovel questions the assertion that originality means something unusual that doesn't owe its existence to other people's idea or materials and looks at the benefits of copying in order to develop our own creativity.

About

Article Overview:
In our view, one of the most interesting articles of 2006. Martin Shovel questions the assertion that originality means something unusual that doesn't owe its existence to other people's idea or materials and looks at the benefits of copying in order to develop our own creativity.

Opening Words:
Let's begin with a riddle: when is a fake not a fake? Answer: when it's an original. As in the strange case of Elmyr de Hory, the notorious twentieth century art forger, who produced hundreds of faked paintings in the style of great artists like Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse and many others during a highly successful criminal career.

The irony is that de Hory's forgeries are now themselves such valuable collectables that other forgers are busy forging de Hory fakes. So collectors of his work find themselves in an Alice-in-Wonderland situation in which they have to try and prove the authenticity of their own sought-after de Hory fakes.

Useful Reading For:
Anyone looking for inspiration on the creative process.

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Thinking About Thinking

Article Overview:
Martin Shovel argues in this article that to rise to the challenges presented by the brave new world we need to develop a more flexible thinking style. He goes on to explain what metacognition is, and why it is matters.

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Article Overview:
Martin Shovel argues in this article that to rise to the challenges presented by the brave new world we need to develop a more flexible thinking style. He goes on to explain what metacognition is, and why it is matters.

Opening Words:
Like it or not, radical and accelerating change has already become a permanent feature of our lives. When Bill Gates was a schoolboy, computers were the stuff of science-fiction but they ended up making him the richest man in the world. Like Bill Gates, many of today’s schoolchildren will end up working in jobs and industries that haven’t even been invented yet – occupations and lifestyles beyond our wildest, and weirdest, imaginings.

To rise to the challenges of this brave new world it’s essential that we find a way of developing a more flexible thinking style. Like a professional tennis player studying a video of herself so that she can improve her serve, we need to discover a means of observing our own thought processes from a distance. From such a vantage point we might begin to influence the dance of neural networks inside our head.

Useful Reading For:
Anyone who is interested in developing a more flexible thinking style.

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Unconventional Wisdom

Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel asks the reader to be prepared to challenge conventional wisdom, and to look for creative opportunities when there is a mismatch between what we've always done and the results we're getting.

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Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel asks the reader to be prepared to challenge conventional wisdom, and to look for creative opportunities when there is a mismatch between what we've always done and the results we're getting.

Opening Words:
Ask a random selection of colleagues if they like PowerPoint presentations, and what do you think they’ll say? Chances are they’ll give you the thumbs down. But do they use PowerPoint themselves? The answer is probably ‘yes’.

Let’s be clear about this – they don’t like being on the receiving end of PowerPoint presentations but they use them themselves. Isn’t this somewhat odd and inconsistent? True, there’s nothing intrinsically bad about PowerPoint, but the way most people use it has turned it into the grey suit of business communications; ubiquitous, boring and predictable.

Useful Reading For:
Anyone looking to overcome 'conventional wisdom'.

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When it Comes to Inspiration, Is Ignorance Bliss?

Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel considers the benefits of understanding the process of innovation and of understanding why the things that happen, happen. By understanding the processes at work, he argues we'll be better placed to repair them when things go wrong.

About

Article Overview:
In this article, Martin Shovel considers the benefits of understanding the process of innovation and of understanding why the things that happen, happen. By understanding the processes at work, he argues we'll be better placed to repair them when things go wrong.

Opening Words:
Goethe proclaimed, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” Translated into the vernacular, his advice is simple and straightforward, “If you want to do something, just get on and do it!”

Sound advice, I'm sure you'll agree, but it doesn't always cut the mustard when I'm trying to come up with new, creative ideas. Perhaps geniuses like Goethe are rarely, if ever, short of inspiration, but inspiration doesn't seem to visit us lesser mortals with such regularity. Too often we find ourselves waiting for it to come, and like the proverbial bus, it might not turn up for ages and then three ideas pop out of the blue at the same time.

Useful Reading For:
Everyone, and particularly those interested in taking control of the creative thinking process.

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Why It's Smart to Hang Out in the Fog (Sometimes)

Article Overview:
In this article, Bill talks about Jordan moments (it will make sense when you read the article!) and discusses the importance of tolerating uncertainty when looking for creative solutions.

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Article Overview:
In this article, Bill talks about Jordan moments (it will make sense when you read the article!) and discusses the importance of tolerating uncertainty when looking for creative solutions.

Opening Words:
A few Sundays ago I found myself at the London Book Fair with my friend Guy Claxton. This was no accident. We were there to promote our new book for the BBC, Be Creative; essential steps to revitalize your life and work. (This was a celebrity event, gentle reader! Picture the scene. Just a few stands away, Jordan was drawing the crowds. Fresh from her Australian jungle frolics, she was launching her autobiography. Posing for the cameras she accidentally dropped what onlookers believed to be a copy of her book only to reveal to watching journalists that it was full of blank pages and not yet ready for publication. Apparently Jordan just did not know what to do with herself. Interestingly – and impressively - she appeared utterly unphased by the experience.)

All of which got me thinking….

Useful Reading For:
Everyone. Especially anyone exploring the avenue of creativity.

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