Leveraging the “Pamplemousse Principle” In Creativity Training
For more than a dozen years my innovation agency has taught customized creative problem-solving workshops (what we now call “Un-Think” programs), to senior managers in medium and large organizations. Evaluations from the literally thousands of executives who have taken the workshop average 4.8 out of 5. Why such high ratings? I think it’s in part because we’ve questioned many of the most basic assumptions of learning and development workshops.
To encourage greater participant engagement, for instance, we don’t use any PowerPoint slides. We also only tell original stories from our own innovation consulting work so we can speak authoritatively about how business creativity and innovation successes really happen. (No cliché Post It Notes, Apple, or Swiffer stories from us!) And we never, ever ask participants to generate a dozen uses for a brick… or a paper clip, or a straw. Unless you’re in the construction, office supply, or soft drink business this is, to our way of thinking, an absurd exercise. Employee time is too valuable to waste on overly theoretical creative thinking exercises that don’t have “real world” relevance for the group.
Instead, we use an “action-learning” methodology. We require participants to submit real-world business challenges for which they would like new thinking and new ideas. Then we use these challenges to help participants apply the creative thinking techniques we want them to learn. So, the workshop feels more like an ideation session than “training.”
Among the dozens of team ideation techniques we teach are triggered brainwalking, patent prompts, worst/silly idea, business model mash-ups, TRIZ triggers, idea hooks, questioning assumptions, target-market wishing, trend triggers, semantic intuition, twenty questions, great thinkers, problem redefinition, magazine rip n’ rap, whiteboarding, strategic continuums, billboarding, and most recently, AI Idea Prompts.
So…. how might we “walk our own talk,” “question our assumptions,” and “wish” for ways to improve our “Un-Think” workshop ratings from a 4.8 to a 4.9… or even a 5.0?
I think we can agree that generative AI programs as they’re now known (i.e., Chat GPT, DALL-E, etc.), have the potential to be business and organizational game changers. Much of the recent press about these programs, however, has focused on their downside: promoting a lack of original thought, “plagiarism,” content inaccuracies, etc.
An important distinction I make in the Introduction to my new book Quirks… Provocative Stories, Songs, Essays, Poems Ads, and Jokes about the Personality Quirks and Crazy Ideas of Great People in History… Created with Artificial Intelligence is that these AI programs can also potentially be tremendous instructional aids… helping learning and development professionals present information and ideas in a variety of creative/different formats to accommodate different student learning styles and preferences. Or, to put it more simply… they can make teaching and learning more creative, effective, and FUN!
Consider this AI generated limerick to help explain – hopefully in an entertaining way — the Worst Idea creative technique:
“There once was a thinker quite wise,
Whose ideas would oft’ materialize,
But the “worst idea” method he’d try,
To create and let fly,
And odd brilliance would then arise.”
Or the Silly Idea technique:
“A thinker who sought the absurd,
With silly ideas, they preferred,
In jest they’d create,
Unlikely to equate,
Yet brilliance from nonsense occurred.”
Or even Patent Prompts.
“In a workshop where minds would connect,
Patent prompts would inspire and direct.
From inventions of old,
New ideas would unfold,
As a wellspring of thought to perfect.
Might having participants generate these creative executions of the workshop content make for an even more inspirational and memorable experience? I think so! But if you’re not convinced, see if these two short stories don’t help make the case.
What would Sandy Alderson Say?
At a Dartmouth College alumni event several years ago, I had the chance to talk with fellow Dartmouth alum, the then General Manager of the Mets, Sandy Alderson. My son James, then only 14, was a pretty good baseball player, going to the Babe Ruth World Series as a member of the Stamford, CT All-Star team. And so, knowing I’d see Sandy Alderson at the event, I asked James if there was anything he wanted me to ask the Met’s General Manager.
“I’d like to know how they can tell which minor leaguers they think will make it to the majors,” said James. Interesting question, right?
Sandy Alderson’s answer surprised me. “One of the most important things we look for is their ability to learn. Because we have so much to teach them.” Impressive.
The story does not end here, though. I have a good friend, Sean Brawley, former touring tennis professional and the only certified teacher of Timothy Gallwey’s Inner Game of Tennis teaching philosophy. When I told Sean this story he followed up with a profound question. “Yes, the ability to learn is important,” he said, “but what about the coach’s ability to teach?” Wow!
Again, we must recognize that different people learn differently – and that AI content creation programs can help accommodate these learning differences and preferences by presenting the material to be learned in radically different formats. Besides a limerick, how about an AI generated song, joke, story, or even an ad?
Say Hello to The Pamplemousse Principle
Story number two involves one of my learning experiences from over 50 years ago. Still in elementary school, I was forced to take French classes after school with a dozen similarly unhappy students. For some reason, possibly out of sheer boredom, but more likely due to the cadence of the French word for grapefruit, Pamplemousse, at one point the class spontaneously started chanting the word “Pamplemousse, Pamplemousse, Pamplemousse.” The teacher couldn’t help but join in.
And then, we all got up from our chairs and in a kind of creative thinking conga line, we danced and sang to the rhythm of our Pamplemousse chant. So much fun, and clearly a memorable learning experience that I carry with me even all these years later.
Could AI creativity programs make what I’ve now dubbed the Pamplemousse Principle – teaching creative thinking more creatively to accommodate different thinking styles – a more-easily-achieved reality by generating fun and funny, entertaining and provocative, original songs, stories, poems, ads, and jokes to reinforce – and make more memorable – the content being taught? My 50+ year experiment with a “French grapefruit” tells me the answer has to be, “Oui!”
Bryan Mattimore is the Cofounder and Chief Idea Guy at Growth Engine, a 23-year-old innovation agency based in Stamford, CT. He is the author of five books on ideation and innovation processes including Idea Stormers, 21 Days to a Big Idea, and the new AI-generated book, Quirks. He can be reached at: [email protected] .