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Eradicate Your Obstacles With This Thinking Game

by Kevin Eikenberry on April 2, 2012

Thinking to create greater creativityWould you like a way to get better ideas, faster?

Would you like to nearly automatically tap into your subconscious brain to help you solve your vexing problems?

Would you like a tool that would help your team think more clearly?

What if I told you that tool was free, except for the five minutes of time you had to invest?

But rather than thinking about it like a tool, I want you to think about it like a game – a game you play with yourself whenever you have a problem you want to solve, an obstacle you want to overcome, or are in search of great new ideas.

This game/tool/technique has been taught by many people over the years (so I can’t definitively give you the original source, and I can’t and won’t claim the basic structure as my own). It works because it is unique, fun and is based on principles of how our brain works.

I call it Sentence Starters, and it works like this.

  1. You write the start of the sentence, based on your problem challenge or obstacle . . . It would be easy to reach my weight goal if . . .  We’d have more customers if . . .  My presentation will be a hit if . . .
  2. You finish writing 6-10 sentences, each with a different ending.
  3. Rinse and repeat for several days (try at least 7 days; more days is better). [The game is best played by determining the number of sentences each day and the number of days before you begin.]
  4. Try to create new sentences each day – don’t review your previous sentences until the game is over.
  5.  Be ready if you get new sentences anytime – write them down – it isn’t cheating!
  6. At the end of your pre-determined time period, review all of your sentences, looking for the gems that you can use to break down your obstacle or solve your problem. You will likely have some silly ones that will give you a laugh, and some simply powerful ideas too.

Like most good games, there are variations that you can apply (does everyone play Monopoly by the same rules?) Here are a couple options to get you started . . .

Speed Sentence Starters

Rather than spreading the game out over several days, sit down in a quiet place and play a speed round – don’t stop until you have 20, 25, or 30 different sentences. This version is great to build momentum and excitement, and to use when you have a more immediate barrier or problem.

Team Sentence Starters

Have a team barrier, obstacle or problem? Teach your whole team this game, and have everyone play it simultaneously. Then collect everyone’s sentences for a team meeting to find the best ideas. (I recommend collecting the sentences and listing them anonymously in one long list).

If you have a team of 5 people, playing the game with six sentences a day for one work week, you would have 150 possible sentences. When was the last time you had that many ideas to consider? Is it possible you will have some breakthroughs?

As you can see, the obstacle or problem can be personal or professional, self-growth or business-improvement – part of the power (and fun) of the sentence starter game is that it works with anything you want to use it for!

Apply this game or one of it variations and you will be quickly surprised by how quickly you become a fan!

photo credit chinwag.com

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Lynn Davis April 2, 2012 at 8:31 am

This is a great idea! I will apply this when working with teams so they can reflect and apply creative ideas to their action plan. Such a simple activity to engage and encourage analytical thinking skills. Thanks Kevin :)

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Joseph Lalonde April 2, 2012 at 11:10 am

I love it Kevin. It kick-starts the creative process and lets you see new possibilities.

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Dianne April 2, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Two “dig deeper” questions I like to use when exploring the ideas generated further are: “What’s stopping me/us from…?” and “How might I/we…?” Of course, the trick is making a commitment to play the game and then to take the time to dig deeper.

So…what’s stopping you from trying out the Sentence Starters game? How might you address that barrier?

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Kevin Eikenberry April 2, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Well done Dianne! Thanks for the contribution!

Kevin :)

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