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Individual Creativity Exercise

Do Nothing

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Brief description of creativity technique

Do Nothing is a creative technique that works by investigating, individually or in a group, what would happen to a problem doing nothing and by determining what the outcome would be if nothing were done. The general assumption that something must be done to solve the problem, is left out. It is necessary to be still for a moment, stop the desperate search for solutions for a few minutes and reflect about what happens if nothing were done. This is a creative way to consider one of three possible outcomes of the problem:

  • the problem doesn’t actually need to be solved – the problem resolves itself without interference or attention (the problem is no more urgent, or maybe the reason for solving it had disappeared)

  • you find a better idea of the benefits of solving the problem itself

  • you generate some alternative problems to solve (the magnitude of the problem wasn’t as great as originally expected.

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Exercise for skills at the level of:

Individual

Leadership

Team

Organization

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Learning objectives of the exercise

Do Nothing technique improve students to put problems into perspective and into a much larger picture. As they keep widening the frame, this larger picture will eventually include themselves. It will lead them to question how they relate to the problem. It is at this point that they often realize how unimportant the problem may be, or its consequences are negligible, or that they simply do not really care. In this sense, “do nothing” is an instrument of insight into students’ values, into what they really care about, and this can make it vital for strategic planning as much as for thinking about what matters in their life.

Introducing this technique to students should make them aware of its flexibility and its potential for use in different business environments.

In the implementation of this technique, it is not required to take action regarding any different levels of student competence.

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Skills developed/enhanced by the exercise

Adaptability

Communication

Collaboration

Curiosity

Initiative

Leadership

Problem-solving

Self-discipline

Tolerance of ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity

Others, please specify

Attentiveness

Confidence

Critical Thinking

Divergent thinking skills

Inventiveness

Negotiating skills

Resilience

Strategic thinking

Visualisation

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Duration

In person: 20-30 minutes

 

Online: same as in person

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How many people are needed?

Teams of three students each.

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Materials required

In person: a sheet of paper/dashboard and stickers to write ideas or a collaborative diagramming tool (Mural, Realtime board, …)

 

Online: a collaborative diagramming tool (Mural, Realtime board, …)

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Instructions for conducting the exercise

Step 1. Facilitator divides students into teams

Step 2. Facilitator writes and explains a realistic problem to teams

 

Step 3. Facilitator asks the teams to write the possible consequences if nothing is done about the problem

 

Step 4. Facilitator asks the teams to write what information related to the problem might not had yet considered

 

Step 5. Facilitator asks the teams to write other possible problem related to the original one

 

Step 6. The team examines and reflects on written ideas to check if there is information that was not considered, or possibilities that had become obvious with a quiet mind or if the problem needs doing nothing or if it is time to change direction because we were trying to solve the wrong problem.

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Case study from desk research

As an example, Do nothing technique is part of a course on creativity for engineers by Erich Prem at TU Vienna.