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Seeking Innovation

Photo by Marius Masalar on Unsplash

Playing with words to spark ideas

Dear collaborative discussion friends,

This week we are highlighting an activity that helps participants practice innovative thinking. It encourages participants to move beyond the constraints of their current ideas or thinking about an issue. By playing with words to spark new ideas, it enables participants to generate solutions that are both practical and inventive.

This activity is contributed by Jack Byrd Jr., Professor of Industrial Engineering at West Virginia University and President of the Interactivity Foundation, and is one of the many activities in the Creative Collaboration Module.

If you missed the previous newsletter, Embracing Contradictions, you can access it and our other weekly newsletters by subscribing below.


This week’s activity:

Activity 2.3 – Seeking Innovation

Develop innovative solutions using the creative and playful method of word connections

This activity helps participants use play and imagination in addressing a particular issue. Through the use of mind mapping participants are able to organize their current knowledge and ideas on this issue. This activity then encourages them to engage their imagination and creativity by using word associations to generate new ideas that can be further developed into innovative and feasible solutions to address this particular problem.

Activity 2.3 – Seeking Innovation

Select a Topic and Take Inventory of Current Knowledge

Begin this activity by selecting an issue that is important to your discussion group, something they are passionate about. As preparation for this activity, consider Activity 5.1 Identifying Your Civic Passion.

Ask participants to create a mind map, on paper or online using a tool like MindMeister or MindMup, to note down and organize what they currently know about this issue.

Use Word Connections to Generate New Ideas

Next, introduce the method of using “word connections” to spark new ideas. Provide participants with a good words list that contains verbs, nouns and adjectives. You can create your own or use this IF Good Words List. Invite participants to generate random combinations of a verb, noun and adjective. Then ask participants to look for what connections or ideas arise when considering these word combinations in conjunction with the mind map they created. Have them collect the ideas that emerge from different word combinations in a list.

Tip: Participants might initially have some difficulty generating ideas or seeing connections between the word combinations and their mind map. Remind them to not self-censor or critically analyze any ideas that emerge. Encourage them instead to approach this task playfully and let their imagination run free. Explain to them that the ideas they generate are only starting points that can be explored further and do not need to be fully formed solutions to the issue they are discussing.

Debrief as a Full Group

Come back together as a full group and discuss:

  • How was the mind map helpful?
  • Describe the struggles that you had in using the word combinations to generate possible innovations.
  • How might you coach others to overcome those struggles?
  • Which were your favorite ideas that came from the word connection process?

In addition to these debriefing questions, the full description of Activity 2.3 Seeking Innovation includes reflection questions and a practice journal prompt to help participants dive deeper.

If you try out this activity, please share with us what you think:

Rate Activity 2.3

We hope this toolkit activity helps participants create innovative solutions to sticky problems by applying playful and imaginative thinking to these serious issues.

Upcoming Events

  • Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago is organizing Guanacaste 2023: The Transformational Listening Conference, from October 5 to October 7, 2023. We are excited to share that Dr. John G. Igwebuike, the founder of Guanacaste: The Lead Listening Institute, and one of our Collaborative Discussion Coaches, will be incorporating part of the Collaborative Discussion Toolkit in the conference this year. All are welcome! Learn more and register here.
  • The National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation 2023 will take place from October 13-15 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Interactivity Foundation, including the Collaborative Discussion Project, will be holding sessions during this event and we look forward to seeing you there. The cost to register is $580, with a discounted rate of $300 for students. All are welcome! Learn more and register here.
  • We are now accepting applications for our Collaborative Discussion Coach Training NCDD Pre-Conference Workshop. Space will be limited. It will take place on October 12th, 9 am – 3 pm at the conference hotel (lunch will be provided). Learn more here. Apply here or share this link with those who might be interested.
  • We are now accepting applications for our Pilot Coach Training for Undergraduate Students which will take place this fall. Space will be limited. The dates for this training have been updated. It will now begin on September 26, 2023. Visit our website to learn more and view the complete list of dates and times, which are also shown on the application. The application deadline has also been extended to September 10, 2023. All undergraduate students who are interested can apply here or you can share this link with students who might be interested.

Looking forward to collaborating,

Ritu Thomas & the Collaborative Discussion Team