4. Use diverse and unrelated data
Again, sticking with the same group of teenagers thinking about ‘communication’, these are the random terms I offered them by way of ‘diverse and unrelated data’: courage, evidence, fame, happiness, nation, poem, story, talent, zoo. I then asked them to spot links between any of these terms and ‘communication’. This is some of what they came up with:
Communication and courage – it can take courage to communicate in some situations. For example, approaching someone famous or someone you fancy; speaking to lots of people at the same time; trying to communicate in a language you’re not very fluent in; telling your family that you’re gay; admitting a mistake, and so on.
Communication and zoo – people who work at zoos often learn how to ‘read’ animal body language and behaviour (this is not the same as communication but it’s part of it); zoo visitors often try to communicate with monkeys by making facial expressions, imitating them, and talking to them. However, they don’t do this as much with other creatures (such as spiders, fish, or tigers) so perhaps we are more likely to attempt communication with beings with similar characteristics?
Although at first the idea of considering unconnected terms seemed like a distraction, it’s interesting to note what those comparisons led to. Indeed, these students were pleased – when reflecting back – to have come up with the notions of communication needing courage (at least to initiate it) and that we are often likely to communicate with those with which we have some similarity or rapport.
All of these examples can be summarised as ‘ways to generate lots more ideas.’ For it is, as Linus Pauling (1901-1994), a double Nobel Laureate, chemist, biochemist and peace campaigner once said:
“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”