How to have good ideas with Judah Pollack

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A grab-bag of activities that unlock creativity, even when you're feeling uncreative.

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~1 hours over 11 videos

About 2 hours of work to do it solo

Miwok territory, Graton Rancheria

tag: planning tag: design tag: ???

Resources Lesson Further reading

Lesson resources

1 Drawing without words.

Drawing without words is useful when you’re in a rut. Using drawings instead of words is a great way to get out of your own way and form some new ideas.

You will need:

Doing the activity:

  1. Start drawing... anything. Stick figures or doodles are fine.
  2. Don’t worry about it being any good. It’s just for you. Have a drink.
  3. Draw the problem you’re facing e.g literally, or a metaphorically.
  4. Take a moment and just look at it. What else do you notice about the problem
  5. Draw the end state, where you want to end up.
  6. Draw the obstacles between you and the end state.
  7. Draw the bridge between the two. The bridge is a possible solution. A good idea.

Five designers in a box.

Judah tells the story of one particurally tricky design situation, and how the designers uncovered some fresh ideas using the drawing wihtout words technique.

2 Quiet / loud brainstorming.

Quiet / loud brainstorming is a way to get better ideas from a group of people who need to brainstorm. The activity moves through quiet and loud phases to allow people of all sorts to particiapte more fully in the conversation.

You will need:

Doing the activity:

  1. Set a clear goal for the brainstorming session.
  2. Spend 5 minutes individually writing ideas.
  3. Spend 2-3 minutes sharing ideas in one-on-one conversations.
  4. Spend 2 minutes quietly reflecting on what was learned.
  5. Spend 10-15 having group discussion.
  6. If group discussion gets out of hand, return to quiet reflection.

Party in the woods.

Judah tells the story of one particurally quiet / loud brainstorming situation involving a colourful bunch of rockers in the forest.

3 Finding your awe.

Finding your awe is a way to help recover if you're feeling burnt out, apathethic or with no energy. This activity is about reconnecting to something that gives you the experience of awe.

You will need:

Doing the activity:

  1. Spend some time experiencing the feeling of awe. (At least an afternoon)
  2. Could be going to the ocean, sitting under a tree, staring at the stars, watching an inspiring movie or nature show, talking to your mentor, reading a book that was pivotal to you...
  3. Reflect on why you do the work you do.

Mulago fellow.

Judah tells the story of helping a participants of the Rainer Arnhold fellowship, run by the Mulago Foundation.

4 Literal change of perspective.

This is a nice quite activity for basically any situation. All that is required is getting out of your stuck position, and try to move to a very different position.

Doing the activity:

  1. Get up from your desk.
  2. Go somewhere unusual eg the corner of the room, sit on the floor, lie on the roof.
  3. Take in what you’re seeing. Notice what’s different.
  4. Take in how it feels. How the floor feels different or the corner against your back.

5 Make your own movie soundtrack.

This is a fun little creative activity that can help when you need some inspiration.

You will need:

Doing the activity:

  1. Find a movie scene you like on youtube.
  2. Mute the video (not your computer.)
  3. Find a song that contrasts the scene.
  4. Watch the scene, while listening to the song.


Judah tells the story of using this technique while working with the US military, and how it helped a breakthrough with particularly unemotional particpants.

6 Historical mirrors.

This activity can be useful when your brain is stuck in the present and you can't see a way to move through a problem.

You will need:

Doing the activity:

  1. Think about the situation you’re struggling with.
  2. Find something that could be a corollary. Are you disrupting energy? Look at a time energy sources got disrupted, like whale oil. Ending poverty? Look at a time standards of living changed dramatically, like after WWII.
  3. Read Wikipedia.

7 Sleep.

Let's be honest, sleep is always a useful and important activitiy. Use this technique to help you super charge your problem solving abilities during the night.

You will need:

Doing the activity:

The nap:

  1. Before napping, spend 5 minutes focused on the problem you’re trying to solve.
  2. Set your alarm for 20 minutes.
  3. Lie back on a couch or bean bag. Don’t get wicked comfortable.
  4. Place you note taking device by your hand.
  5. Nap
  6. Write down what you dream or think about when you get up
  7. Spend 10 minutes working out what you wrote down.

The full night’s rest:

  1. Before going to sleep, spend 5 minutes thinking about the problem you’re trying to solve.
  2. Place your note taking device by the bed.
  3. When you wake up, write down whatever is in your head.
  4. Now spend some time focusing on it.

Further reading

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