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Format: Pair Block-Breaking

Page history last edited by sean 11 years ago

Pair Block-Breaking Format

People from different disciplines who've each reached a creative impasse in their work gather to help each other break these creative blocks.

Work tasks it's probably best for: High-level conceptual, fuzzy, right-brain stuff. Writing, high-level design challenges, advertising/marketing concept ideation, product development, business strategy and tactics. Possibly some tasks within science and medicine. Probably not as useful for tasks that are difficult or tedious for people outside the given industry to grok (many tasks in law, finance, software development, medicine, etc.)

Long Description: The session is broken into three parts (Phases 1, 2 and 3).  During Phase 1, each person very briefly describes his/her creative block to the group. Phase 2 is the core of the session, when people repeatedly pair up,  share ideas and solutions, then pair up with new partners. In Phase 3 the group votes on who  were the most helpful participants, and highlights a couple of the most fruitful ideas/solutions. This is a hybrid of two other formats (Business Speed Dating and Pecha Kucha) adapted for the purpose of breaking out of mental blocks.

[Moderator guidelines]

    Pre-session preparation: If possible, choose a diverse group of participants in terms of industries and occupations, so that you maximize the creative sparks that are formed when a challenge in one industry is viewed through the eyes of another industry.  At least avoid having multiple people participate who are working on the same project and challenge.  The whole point is 1) to get people away from their everyday physical and social environment (where their blocks formed to begin with); and 2) to get each problem in front of people who aren’t already “too close to” that problem.  Encourage participants ahead of time to really work hard at writing (and/or drawing) a summary of their problem a) that makes sense to laypersons outside their industry and b) that they’ll be able to express in 2 minutes.  This may be the biggest challenge for many participants and its difficulty may take people by surprise, so warn them of this.  Encourage them by emphasizing that this step may be the most important ingredient in breaking the block, because summarizing a problem for others can help alleviate the problem of being “too close” to the issue.

Use an audio tone or other clear signal at the end of each 2 minutes, and really enforce that time limit! Use any possible means to make sure that the next person up to bat begins on time, even if it means cutting off someone who gone overtime.

    Materials necessary (beyond basic kit and these moderator and participant documents): Highly recommended: A software script system with audible alert, or some other alert system to clearly notify each participant when his/her 2 minutes is up during the Phase 1 (“present your creative block”) presentations. Microphone(s) and audio amp system to very clearly pass the focus of attention to the next participant when time is up.  Some participants may wish to draw up slides ahead of time and present them as parts of their 2-minute summaries, and some may wish to draw, so whiteboards and projectors might help. Also: a set of comfortable tables for two, enough to accommodate everyone.

    Session timeline:

            (:12 total for 6 people, :2 per person) Phase 1: Each person spends 2 minutes describing their mental block to the group.

            (:30 total for 6 people; :5 per pair chat) Phase 2: People pair up for 2 chats of 5 minutes each: i) Person B suggests ideas/solutions/new questions to tackle person A's block, and discusses/refines them w/ Person A;  ii) vice versa.

                – One person in each pair moves to the next table to create new pairs.

                – Phase 2 repeated til all potential pairs have met

       (:18 total for 6 people) Phase 3: Participants vote anonymously (via our software or papers in a hat) on who was most helpful in breaking their block.  The participant voted most helpful gets a prize.  (And perhaps a badge or reputation points that appear on their BreakoutOS account?)  Moderator asks anyone who received a particularly notable or useful solution to his/her problem to briefly describe the solution to the group.

Special note: Please adapt the script according to your session’s participants and their goals, and please note any surprises or lessons learned that we might apply to future sessions.

[Participant guidelines]

   Welcome!   The point here is to break you out of the creative block in question by 1)  getting you away from your everyday physical and social environment (where the blocks formed to begin with); and 2) to get your problem in front of people who aren’t already “too close to” that problem.  In order for that to happen, it’s critical that you create a summary of your block a) that makes sense to laypersons outside your office and industry and b) that you’ll be able to express in 2 minutes.

Here's an overview of what will happen:

     (:12) Phase 1: Each person spends 2 minutes describing their mental block to the group

     (:30) Phase 2: People pair up for 2 chats of 5 minutes each: i) Person B suggests ideas/solutions/new questions to tackle person A's block, and discusses/refines them w/ Person A;  ii) vice versa.

– One person in each pair moves to the next table to create new pairs, and this is all repeated until all potential pairs have met.

     (:18) Phase 3: Participants vote anonymously on who was most helpful in breaking their block.  The participant voted most helpful gets a prize.  Wrap up with informal discussion of the best successes that came out of the session.

[Moderator Script]

        [Intro optional]

        (0:00) Phase 1: Each participant is given 2 minutes to present her/his problem. (Use an alarm tone or other clear way to mark these 2-minute increments, and really enforce this time limit.  You’ll have to work hard at making laggards stop talking when their time is up and making the next person start presenting right on time rather than waiting politely for the last person to finish overtime.)

        (12:00 - start of Phase 2) Phase 2: Please form a pair with the person next to you and begin with one person chatting with the other, suggesting solutions to one person’s block.

            (17:00) – OK, same pairs, talk about the other person’s block.

            (22:00) – OK, split up and form a new pair with your next neighbor. Start again chatting about one person’s block

            (27:00) – OK, talk about the other person’s block.

            (32:00) – OK, split up and form a new pair.

            (37:00) – OK, talk about the other person’s block.

        (42:00 - start of Phase 3) [Phase 3 voting / wrapup activities]

        (60:00) d.]

[No Participant Script]

[No Background / reference materials]

 

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