Brendan Boyle, Founder of the IDEO Toy Lab and a contributing instructor in our Unlocking Creativity class, has a knack for helping others insert more creativity and playfulness into their work. He recommends you start every meeting with a creative workout to elevate the energy in the room and cites research that shows how these types of exercises can boost productivity by 12%. Brendan believes that in the workplace we're good at being efficient and productive, but this sometimes comes at the expense of creativity and our ability to generate new ideas.
Here’s a simple activity in imagination play that Brendan uses to get the team into a more creative headspace:
1. Stand up and shut your eyes. Imagine you’re standing in a big open field beneath a blue sky. In 3 seconds, you’re going to blast around the moon.
2. Spend 15 seconds and imagine yourself blasting around the moon.
3. Now land back on earth.
A few questions about your experience:
1. Did you wear a spacesuit?
2. Did you have your hands up like superman or superwoman?
3. Did you land on the moon?
When Brendan tries this exercise with kindergartners, he’s always amazed by their vivid imaginations—many land on the moon, go to mars randomly, or build space stations—because they’re not constrained.
As we get older, we’re so good at converging—making decisions, coming up with an answer, exercising judgment—but we have a more difficult time diverging—coming up with a diversity of ideas, having open discussion, and suspending judgment.
This was a pretty simple task. You flew around the moon, you may have landed, and then you came back to earth. If you did this warm-up a second time, you'd realize it's about using the power of imagination and likely have more fun. We're so good at converging because we have to make decisions every day, but how can we stay in that imagination stage a little bit longer?