Engaging Students in the Making of Good New Ideas
Module Sixteen -- Play, Experimentation & Improvisation

Original --------------------- Twirl -------------- Pointilize ------------ Wind Blast

The thinker brings a toying spirit to the challenge of exploring and inventing, testing out a wide variety of changes and variations “just for the fun of it.” The use of filters in an image editing program such as PhotoShop is a good metaphor for this type of experimentation. The user may apply dozens of changes to an image and then adjust each of those changes to a level that might be appealing.

The same playful manipulation can also be done with an idea or a melody.

The above versions of a light house will illustrate the process. The number of choices and combinations of choices is nearly unlimited for the user of PhotoShop and the same can be said for the thinker, as many of the changes made to visual images can be made to ideas.

PhotoShop Filter Categories

  • Artistic filters Blur filters
  • Brush Stroke filters Distort filters
  • Noise filters Pixelate filters
  • Render filters Sharpen filters
  • Sketch filters Stylize filters
  • Texture filters Video filters
  • Other filters Digimarc filters
  • Lighting Effects filter

Each category offers about a dozen options.

In the case of artistic filters, for example, there are fifteen choices.

  • Colored Pencil Cutout
  • Dry Brush Film Grain
  • Fresco Neon Glow
  • Paint Daubs Palette Knife
  • Plastic Wrap Poster Edges
  • Rough Pastels Smudge Stick
  • Sponge Underpainting
  • Watercolor, etc.

There are other menus offering dozens of other adjustments and changes, many of which have counterparts when making changes in music and ideas whether it be tone or contrast, intensity or hue.

Playing with such changes requires a combination of skill and attitude. The thinker must be inclined to try out many variations to see the effect of each. It is important to withhold judgment. To the casual observer it might seem as if this idea play is nothing more than diddling or fiddling about, flirting with ideas rather than constructing them in serious ways, but the process is central to inventive thought.

Often, the mind performs some of this playful manipulation at a subconscious level as ideas incubate in between more conscious thinking times. Thus, we find some of the most startling new insights suddenly pop to the surface during a morning run or a walk along a stream. Such a startling insight is often called an “Aha.”

Word now offers many image effects similar to PhotoShop.

But thinkers should be able to conduct such idea play on a conscious level as well, employing a wide array of strategies like those built into PhotoShop to toy around with ideas until inspiration emerges.

Give this strategy a try using one of the graphics programs on your computer or http://www.picnik.com/ or use one of these online photo editing sites.

The section above was drawn from Chapter Seven in Jamie McKenzie's book, Learning to Question to Wonder to Learn which is available for purchase at http://fno.org/fnopress/books.html.

Please do not move to next module until instructed to do so by the facilitator.

© Jamie McKenzie, 2008, all rights reserved. No copies can be made or distributed in any format without the express written permission of the author.