5 unconventional ways for academic libraries to solve problems and generate new ideas

iStock_000039241288_LargeRecently I attended an inspiring creative thinking workshop held by the HatRabbits brothers in Rotterdam.

I wanted to find other methods to help libraries solve stubborn problems or to help when generating new ideas.
After trying and experimenting with these myself … Mission accomplished!

Creative Thinking is great if you quickly want to generate lots of new ideas for a new library service on one end of the scale or if you have a problem that you’ve found difficult to solve on the other.
If you are reorganising or have some hard choices to make, and want support from your team, this can bring more energy and light-heartedness into sometimes heavy and loaded problem-solving.

Ideally you explore any of these techniques with a team.
Mixing up the team with members from different departments, ages and backgrounds will bring even more diverse ideas or solutions.

It can be a fun and engaging way to work together. Always keep your goal in mind, have the intention to have fun, and really try to think outside the box and try to break away – at least initially – from your normal logical structured way of thinking.

Here are a few methods I tried and what we came up with in the groups was really of another sort.

Make bizarre connections and associations

  1. Take a dictionary and open it on any page and quickly select the first word you see. OR
    Look at an image bank or book and select the first image that attracts your attention. Alternatively, you have a selection of images and just ask one of your team to select one.
  2. In a team, note down the words and associations you have with that word or image. Please note: You are focussing on the word or image at this point and not on the issue at hand.
  3. Get someone to choose a number from 1-10, e.g. 3, and then select the 3rd association you made from your list.
  4. Using this association as your inspiration, consider as many solutions as possible.

Dream before coming down to earth

  1. In words, formulate a dream situation “Wouldn’t it be amazing if ….” Be creative. What is the first thing that comes into your head? Be sure to make this dream very idealistic and unrealistic.
  2. Then discuss: What does this dream solve? Why could this dream solve your problem. Why would it be great were this to work? How would it help?
  3. Now, using this inspiration: in the real world and with your situation, what could you actually implement from what you’ve learnt?

Make it worse

  1. Consider how you could make your current situation worse.
  2. Discuss the advantages if this happened.
  3. Use these insights to generate new ideas.

Break the rules

  1. Write down 5 elements that you feel are essential to solve your issue.
  2. Remove one of these most essential elements.
  3. Consider ideas to solve the problem without that essential element.

Be foolish, more foolish, and then … good

  1. In a team, each writes down an outrageous or irrational way of achieving your goal on a piece of paper.
  2. They pass this on to their neighbour to their right.
  3. This person then makes the idea even more outlandish, but always with the problem goal in mind. Note this down on that same piece of paper and pass this on to your right.
  4. The third person then uses the outlandish ideas to come up with a good idea that can indeed be realised. This person reads out the 2 foolish ideas as well as the great solution to the rest of the team. All team members do the same.


Have fun and be open minded and you’ll be surprised at the results!


For more information on Creative Thinking, be sure to check out HatRabbits.com.


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