How to take a creative ‘excursion’

Take your mind on a journey away from the problem to find new possibilities and ideas whenever you need them!

Take your mind on a journey away from the problem to find new possibilities The ‘excursion’ is a way to get fresh, new ideas when you need them. Essentially, it involves searching beyond the traditional parameters of the problem to get more novel ideas. Excursions can take many forms. A simple one is to try imagining how different characters might solve the problem. Use the new perspectives to generate new thinking.

For example, if you have a need to influence some people who have dramatically different views from your own you may decide that Henry VIII would chop off the heads of the people he wishes to influence. Clearly, this is absurd, however the metaphorical connection is about giving strong clear messages, so what can you do instead that is dramatic. Maybe you can tell people that your level of frustration is such that you could imagine wielding an axe, then they may hear the strength of your emotion.

The excursion technique is based on many years of observations of what people do naturally, though not necessarily consciously, to generate new ideas. Though there’s no guarantee that you’ll get new ideas each time you use it, most people find that it does significantly increase the odds, especially with practice.

The technique attempts to relax our strong internal censoring device and helps people take mental vacations temporarily from the problem.

How it works

An excursion has three basic steps. They are:

  • Temporarily put the problem out of mind.
  • Generate irrelevant material.
  • Improvise a novel idea.

Here’s an example: Sally needed a better place to study for her exams. Her roommates distracted her and she did not want to go to the library. She needed a new way to think about it so she went on an excursion. The image of a mushroom popped up in her mind. She pretended she was inside a mushroom. It was cool and damp as though in a cave. The walls were nubbly and moist. There was a faint pulse as though the mushroom was breathing – it was a little like a heartbeat…

Sally thought, “Heartbeat… it would be comforting, as though I am in a womb. It would block out other distracting noise. That is what I will do. I will record my heartbeat and then play it back into earphones. Wherever I am will be a place to study.

When to use it

The excursion technique is useful:

  • When you want more speculative ideas;
  • When you have ‘run dry’ and need some additional stimulus;
  • When you are up against a roadblock or need a breakthrough.

This article is used with the permission of Synectics, a leading innovation consulting firm.