Introducing Deliberate Creative Thinking with CCS Cards

Introducing Deliberate Creative Thinking
with CCS Cards

Bill Jarrard

Guest Blog by Bill Jarrard, co-founder Mindwerx International

I have been using CCS cards since Craig and Leonie first introduced them, in all sorts of activities to increase collaboration, introduce new concepts, develop strategies, and much more.  But one activity features in almost every learning experience I facilitate in the Critical and Creative Thinking or Making Innovation Happen space, usually near the beginning of a workshop.

I don’t have specific name for it – never really thought I needed one, but essentially the task is for workshop participants to break into teams of 4-6, and invent, imagine, conceptualise, or develop for me a never before seen in the universe (real, virtual, or fictional) Product, Service, and/or Business Concept.

The set-up is like this:

  1. I create as many sets of five large CCS cards as I need, one for each team.  I do this randomly ensuring though that there is nice variety of cards in each set – for example I would not have five word cards in a single set.
  2. The sets are given to the teams face down, with sets delivered or selected randomly.  They are then to turn the cards over and spread them out so everyone in the team can see them.
  3. I then set the task as outlined above (usually with a bit of drama), adding that they must incorporate all five cards in their solution, and that at the end they will need to present their idea and ‘sell’ it to me. 
    • I want to know what the product, service or business concept is, how they got the idea from the CCS cards, who is going to use or buy it, how much it will cost, how it will be funded, what it is called, how it will be marketed, and why it is cool or innovative.  I tell them they’ll have 60-90 seconds to do that.  (You can imagine the reaction)
    • To start their activity, they are to start by very quickly (1-2 min max in total) share with each other anything that jumps out from the cards – could be what is there, a memory, an interpretation etc.  But I encourage them not to spend too much time on this and to get started with generating their ideas quickly.
    • I then tell them they have 9 minutes to complete the task, as I deliberately set my timer.  (more reactions)
  4. The teams get to work, as I seemingly take little interest and don’t answer questions except to repeat any instructions, but of course I’m keeping an eye on things, to see what they’re doing.
  5. As time clicks down I announce 5 minutes to go, 3 minutes, 1 minute and the alarm goes, and we call a halt.  Each team then presents their idea – showing everyone their cards and doing their best to ‘sell’ their outcome. 

And in doing this hundreds of times, I’ve never had a team fail to create something – usually way out there, as I gave no instruction that the idea had to be complete, doable or ready to go.  And there is always laughter as teams present.

So, what’s next and what’s the point?

The activity of course is just the start of the learning process, not just the immediate lessons but the setup for my entire Deliberate Creative Thinking or Critical and Creative Thinking workshop. 

Here is the debrief:

  1. First. I thank and congratulate the participants and ask how they ‘felt’ about the activity.  It will range from stressful at the start, to fun and successful at the end.  I draw out the lessons, sharing insights I note and have seen in the past.
  2. I ask them what they noticed as they worked together and I draw their observations out into lessons they might have gained.  A key observation here is that they would have used the CCS cards to create ‘patterns’, or an order of the cards, to tell a story or explain their idea.  This is a key learning, as the mind is an Associative, Self-Patterning, Success system which I draw on through my workshops.
  3. We also note that most people saw quite different things in each card, which indicates ‘perception’ is an individual part of the thinking process.  I can have some fun with this.
  4. After this debrief which takes about 5 minutes, I then get to the main purpose I have for the activity.  Which is to introduce the Vital Ingredients to successful thinking, and the additional ingredients for Deliberate Creative Thinking.

Vital Ingredients for Successful Thinking

In this debrief process I again engage participants with questions. I indicate that we cannot have a Thinking Activity, ANY thinking activity without three Vital Ingredients, and then ask them what those might be.  Answers will range from cooperation, creativity, teamwork, ideas etc. which are usually things that happen during or after the thinking. 

I want to know the ‘ingredients’ needed BEFORE thinking even starts, and draw that out to reveal these three:

  • FOCUS: Without something to think about, without some form of Focus there can be no thinking activity.  The Focus may be a problem to be solved, an opportunity to be explore, a task to be done. The clearer the Focus the more effective the thinking.  The focus can be wide or narrow, grand or specific – it just must be clear, and clear to everyone in a thinking activity.
  • PEOPLE: If there is no one in the room, there is no thinking.  Moreover, even if there are people in the room, but they aren’t engaged in the activity, it will not be successful.  Therefore, getting people involved is vital.  This may be just one person (you), a couple, a small team, a large group, an entire organization or even a whole nation or global movement.
  • TIME: If I had given only 10 seconds to do that activity, could it have been done? No. Time is needed for thinking, but time also needs to be respected.  How we use time is vital to thinking, and a successful thinking activity.

All three ingredients are vital to a thinking activity.  Without all three there is nothing.  But it is the balance of these that determines success.  If you have the wrong people given too little time on an unclear focus you have chaos and a massive waste of time. 

These are of course obvious in hindsight, but it is clear that most people and organisations don’t get the balance of these right.  I use the analogy of a three-leg stool to explain.

A Fourth Ingredient for Deliberate Creative Thinking

After the above discussion I introduce the 4th ingredient, not necessarily a vital ingredient (that is thinking can take place without it) to successful thinking, whether that be Critical and Creative Thinking or other types of thinking.  I draw back on the activity and ask what that ingredient might be, and they quickly realise it was the CCS cards.

We then discuss the impact CCS cards had on the activity, and I introduce the concept of using ‘thinking tools’ into the discussion, and how Critical and Creative Thinking, Deliberate Creative Thinking, or Making Innovation Happen is greatly enhanced by these ‘tools’, of which there are hundreds. My approach is one of enabling people to think about how they think, by appreciating they can take control of much of it using simple methods, widely available.

This use of CCS cards as an aid to thinking is a great way to engage workshop participants, get them talking, sharing, brainstorming, laughing, and most importantly thinking.  Try developing something similar yourself, but with a different angle than what I use please.  Thanks and good luck.

Cheers Bill

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Bill Jarrard

Bill Jarrard is co-Founder of Mindwerx International, and a thought leader in helping others understand, interpret and apply the vast amount of information available on creativity and innovation. His focus role is in Innovation Facilitation, and he works with Boards and Executive teams facilitating strategic thinking and innovation planning globally.