Ed Glassman
Ed Glassman

Creativity In Action: How To Use Fantasy Creativity Triggers At Work

Jolt your mind and trigger all sorts of new, unusual, unexpected ideas to combine into a quality solution with ‘Fantasy Creativity’ at work. Creativity triggers that involve ‘fantasy’ produce unexpected, high quality solutions to complex problems. This approach combines expectations of the future with current reality. Use this approach only with an experienced creative thinking group. Here’s one such approach.

WHAT IF: Future Pretend Year: A very advanced creativity trigger that requires practice and lots of time. If you work on this by yourself, plan to spend time on it each day for many days, even a week. Still, expect startling results, especially if you work with a team of coworkers.

Write your problem statement: How to (accomplish something vital) …

Fantasize the future when someone has already solved your problem.

List each of the following items in turn on separate pages or flip chart sheets without thinking about the possible solution.

1. List those people inside and outside your work organization who gained by the success.

2. List those people who lost now that someone solved the problem.

3. List the ‘Fantasy Resource People’ you will bring in to help implement the solution. Include…

• Experts from the past and present.

• Experts from other places.

• Experts from Sea World, Kennedy Space Center, or Epcot Center.

• Other experts or heroes, historical or mythological, from whom you want help.

• Fantasy helpers: writers, scientists, artists, inventors, thinkers, business students, professors, consultants, etc.

4. For each person listed in ‘3’ above, list specifically what each uniquely does in the future to help create and implement the successful solution. Start each item with the name of the person.

5. Use each activity listed in ‘4’ above as a trigger-idea to spark new ideas to solve your problem as it exists today. Force combinations between these trigger-ideas and your problem statement.

6. Improve each idea by listing what you like about it, and what concerns you. Then improve the idea by minimizing those things that concern you.

Future pretend year produces a cascade of trigger-ideas, thus:

Unique People => Unique activities => New & Useful ideas.

Keep writing new ideas throughout this activity until you think you solved the problem. Beware: avoid the ‘quick fix,’ which is using the first adequate idea. Stay creative. Better ideas await patient people who continue looking.

Allow four to ten hours for this very advanced creative thinking procedure. Don’t rush it because it seems non-logical. Logic will play its role, never fear. This procedure: so powerful, an explosion of uniqueness.

Future fantasy produces a type of forced withdrawal from the real problem into a fantasy world involving Fantasy Resource People in the future and the present. This helps you escape current restraints on your thinking and jump starts paradigm shifts that allow you to draw on new areas of thought. You may modify this process to fit your needs. Even a little bit is better than none at all.

The purpose of Future Fantasy is to jolt the mind and trigger all sorts of new, unusual, unexpected ideas to combine into a quality solution. Another somewhat related creative thinking approach with the same goal, more & better ideas, is Metaphor Fantasy…

Metaphor Fantasy As Creativity Triggers

Metaphors open your mind. Try this creativity trigger.

1. Study an object, situation, or picture.

2. Non-evaluatively list specific characteristics or properties, such as color, shape, texture, odor, feel, sound, taste, composition, etc.

3. Choose one property or characteristic. Non-evaluatively list what that property or characteristic reminds you of. For example, a ‘WHITE PAGE IN A BOOK’ is… snow; smooth silk; a flat table top; speckled ash on snow; a lined, plowed field; etc.

4. Non-evaluatively list the characteristics, nuances, impressions, and properties of your metaphor.

5. Force-combinations between the items in ‘4’ above with your ‘how to’ problem statement.

6. Select, combine, change, add to, and develop an idea to help generate a quality solution.

7. Improve your idea by non-evaluatively listing, in turn, what you like and can use in your idea; deficiencies that need improving; and ways you can overcome the deficiencies.

8. Use the process again using a new metaphor. Expect good results and you will get them.

Metaphors, Poetry, And Fantasy Creative Thinking

Another approach uses metaphors to trigger poems about the problem area to spark novel ideas. For example, suppose you want to improve a commercial BLACK MAGIC MARKER. First, examine its characteristics:

– IT HAS BLACK INK, like…a squid, a pen, swamp water.

– IT IS BLACK, like…midnight, a dark mood, black paint.

– IT HAS A SLEEK SHAPE, like…a bullet, rocket, racing car.

– IT HAS A COVER CAP, like…a cap on a tooth paste tube.

– IT STANDS UPRIGHT, like…a tree, space shuttle, chimney, an open playpen.

– IT LIES DOWN, like…an airplane landing, chopsticks on a table.

IT IS SHINY, like…patent leather, an apple, a mirror.

Now combine these analogies & metaphors into a poem…

For example,

“Ode To A Black Magic Marker In A Creative Thinking Workshop”





In this poem, “playpen” is a metaphor for the workshop, while the bullet (the magic marker) explodes into triggers (of ideas), the reverse of firing a gun where the trigger provokes the explosion of the bullet.

Write poems in a similar way about your problem statement. This procedure opens up new perspectives and stimulates the kind of creative thinking that leads to quality solutions.

And checkout my book: “CREATIVITY TRIGGERS ARE FOR EVERYONE: How To Use Your Inventiveness To Brighten Your Life.” CLICK here AND HERE.

©2017 by Edward Glassman, Ph.D.


EdWARD Glassman, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded the Program For Team Excellence And Creativity at the university. He led scores of problem-solving creativity meetings and creative thinking workshops-seminars for many large and small companies. He was a ‘Guggenheim Foundation Fellow’ at Stanford University, a ‘Visiting Fellow’ at the ‘Center For Creative Leadership’ in Greensboro, NC, a Visiting Professor at the University Of California at Irvine, and a Visiting Scientist at SRI International in Palo Alto, California.

His book: Team Creativity At Work I & II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best,” is available: CLICK here OR HERE.

Another book of his: R&D CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION HANDBOOK: A Practical Guide To Improve Creative Thinking and Innovation Success At Work is also available.   CLICK here  OR HERE

About the Author
Ed Glassman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus and former head of the "Program for Team Effectiveness and Creativity," in the medical school of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also a visiting fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina.
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