Idea Learning Group

"creativity" Posts

Check out our co-founder Jillian Douglas’ interview with Justin Foster of Foster Thinking in his 6th episode of the Bacon Coterie series.

“Jillian is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Idea Learning Group in Portland, OR.  With the growing emphasis on customized learning in the workplace, Jillian and her team are true innovators on creating memorable learning experiences for companies. Jillian is an interesting, funny, smart and driven person who I could visit with for hours!” – Justin Foster

Thanks Justin!

Real-Life Branching: Navigating a Corn Ma(i)ze

Combining play with learning is something educators agree is important in childhood. Play also helps adults with learning, stress relief, and creative thinking.

We intentionally build in time for play at IdeaLearning Group. We play games, brainstorm together, and we also openly share ideas—no matter how wacky they seem at first—to discover creative, effective solutions for our clients.

In eLearning, “branching scenarios” let learners make choices, experience consequences, and ultimately get different results based on the choices they make. They’re sometimes compared to the Choose Your Own Adventure book series that many of us loved as kids. On a recent Team Day outing, we branched out in a corn maze at Sauvie Island.

The maze is very elaborate with a theme that changes every year. It includes a series of signs, numbered 1 through 10. At each juncture you have to decide whether to turn left or right. Obviously one wrong turn can result in fruitless frustration.

Before entering the maze, we stopped by the trivia station where we could choose from a dozen or so trivia cards, each with 10 questions. Every question aligns with a numbered station. Our team selected cards with four different themes: Halloween; the history of Portland; “Portlandia” the TV show; and stars/outer space. Our strategy was to cross-reference our answers at each station to ensure we were choosing the right direction.

Our real-life branching exercise emphasized many strategies that we intentionally include in our branching elearning scenarios:

Clearly articulate the goal.

Make sure the ultimate goal is something the learner wants, needs, and understands. Is it a hero adventure? What’s the reward at the end? Will the purpose of the journey be worth it all? At the corn maze, our goal was to make it out alive in a timely manner before the rain started so we could select our pumpkins afterwards.

Provide some indication of what they can expect.

Like in real life, people have roles when they’re engaged in any activity. We all have our unique approaches and strengths. Some people like to jump right in. But others want a general lay of the land first. Giving a time range is a good start, so that people know what’s expected from their commitment.

At one point Shannon exclaimed aloud, “This could take all afternoon!” before asking an attendant how long it would take. She was comforted to find out that 45 minutes was the norm. Determined to discover what was up next before arriving there, Jennie secretly read ahead on her trivia card. Amir, our visual expert, candidly snapped photos as we walked.

Build in prompts that help people make informed choices along the way.

The trick is to make the journey challenging but not overly frustrating. In elearning, the course navigation helps you get your bearings if you find yourself lost in the weeds. It’s important to make sure learners have helpful tools to use. (But we agreed not to rely on our iPhones, as tempting as it was.)

We could have gone into the maze without any prompts, but it would have taken all afternoon and resulted in a tantrum or two. (Shannon also thinks emergency exits would have been a nice addition.) The trivia cards helped keep us on track. And we learned lots of fun, interesting facts along the way. Did you know that the Portlandia statue is attached to a building in downtown Portland that’s considered “one of the most hated buildings in America”?

Other clever prompts built into the corn maze were illustrated riddle signs—like a  painting of a pig tied up to indicate “hog tied”—and music playing from atop a small bridge that you could climb for a somewhat aerial view.

Build in ways to recover if you make a mistake.

An effective branching activity lets you make mistakes, learn from them, and recover enough to get yourself back on track. Obviously a dead end in a corn maze is a good indication that you’ve made a wrong decision. At one point when we were off track, Shannon and Emily cleverly situated random corn husks and bark chips as Hansel-and-Gretel-style breadcrumbs to help us break out of the cycle. (It’s a good thing, too, because Jillian was starting to lose her cool when it was clear that we were going in circles.)

At the end of the maze, we realized that printed in teeny tiny letters at the bottom of each trivia card, upside down, were all the answers to the questions. It’s funny how none of us realized this until the very end. The opportunity to cheat was there all along, but we were either blind to it or just too focused on the journey itself.

How does your organization value “play”? Tell us your stories below.

The Power of Shower Thinking

Have you ever spent an hour staring at a blank piece of paper, willing some new ideas to spill onto the page, only to feel disappointed and exhausted when nothing materializes?

You might be going about brainstorming the wrong way. To generate new ideas, give your brain a break. Try starting with a clear mind, and avoid being so direct in your thinking.

When Albert Einstein said, “Why is it I get my best ideas while shaving?” I think he was on to something with this observation.

It could be the steam, the isolation from everyday distractions, or the quality time spent with the subconscious mind. Or maybe it’s the white noise it generates, the ritualistic simplicity of it, or just a fresh start to the day.

Whatever the reasons, I get many of my best ideas in the shower.

According to the article “How to Produce Big Ideas On Demand” in Business Week Online, “There is a scientific theory that water hitting your head helps trigger the synapses and that’s why people get great ideas in the shower. But we think it’s simpler than that: The ideas occur because you are not making an effort to think. You aren’t worried about anything. You are not stressed. Hence some of your best thinking occurs.”

Perhaps we find a special sort of relaxation in those transitory moments of our days, which allow us to dig deeper into the incubation stations in our minds, seemingly without effort.

“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” Thomas Edison had a different approach to tapping into his subconscious meanderings to mine new ideas. Although he only slept for four to five hours each night, he regularly took catnaps. He would think of something he wanted to resolve before sitting in a chair, drifting off with a ball bearing in each hand. If he fell into too deep of a sleep, the ball bearings would come crashing to the ground—a sign that he’d gone too far into slumber. He would then quickly record the ideas that were brewing when he was jolted awake.

You would think that Edison would have invented and patented a device for recording creative ideas in this manner. But it wasn’t until 75 years after his death that such products were available, at least when it comes to recording creative ideas in the shower.

Although I haven’t personally tried any of these products, I’m amused and impressed with the selection of idea-recording devices for use in the shower! There’s Divemaster Slate, a waterproof whiteboard. AquaNotes makes a waterproof notepad (“No more great ideas down the drain!”). Rite in the Rain makes a handheld waterproof flip pad. Aquapac makes waterproof cases for digital recording electronics.

But if I were to hang up the waterproof notepad or eagerly clutch my waterproof voice recorder as I shampoo my hair, would that quiet my creative subconscious? Would the ideas become less accessible if I were to enter the shower with such lofty expectations?

When do you find yourself generating your best ideas, and how do you record them?

What we love at IdeaLearning Group

In honor of Valentine’s day, a list of the things we truly love and that inspire us at IdeaLearning Group.

1. Making learning that looks beautiful and works beautifully
2. Having a positive impact and making a difference
3. The aha moment when learners get it
4. Visuals
5. Making learning a memorable experience
6. Games
7. Clients that are willing to try something new
8. Collaboration
9. Art
10. Chocolate chip cookies

NEW BUSINESS Contact us with business inquiries or to discuss your project needs and vision.
CAREERS We always enjoy connecting with talented professionals in the learning and development field.
CONNECT 503.208.3256
LOCATION 2701 NW Vaughn St #103
Portland, OR 97210

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