What's New

Words of Wisdom

52 cards and 15 activities to spark conversations and make sense of learning.
Learn more HERE.


What We Do

The Firefly Group helps people make sense of what they learn and experience.

Whether facilitating a group for better decision-making, keynoting a conference, leading a training, or writing an instructional design, we use novel methods that engage, spark creativity, and produce memorable results.

If this sounds like a good direction for your organization, let's talk about how we might collaborate! Please give me a call (802.257.7247) or send an . - Brian

Your ETR (Estimated Time to Read): 10 minutes
Your ETII (Estimated Time to Implement Ideas):
5 weeks

Read my book
Say It Quick!

What can you teach with a glass of water and an index card?
Watch my video
and find out!

Readers Respond
See how others reacted to the June 2016 News Flash Man Bites Dog with thoughts about how the order of our words (the words of our order) impact meaning

July 2016

Say It Quick
a thoughtful message in exactly 99 words

bits of serendipity to inspire and motivate
fuel for your own continuous learning
tips and tricks you can try today



Creativity Within the Box

Spin Out


Say It Quick

Being creative means thinking differently in order to strike upon something unique. After all, you can't come up with novel concepts if you never leave the confines of your familiar world. Or can you? Perhaps there are instances in which being stuck in a box inspires more innovation than you might think. Learn more beginning with this story in just 99 words.

As a kid I used to spend the whole of every summer on my bicycle. If it wasn't raining, I'd be biking with my buddy, Daniel, who lived on the next block. Even in small town Iowa our mothers were cautious and restricted us to the streets circumscribing our houses.

With only two blocks to peddle around you'd think we would have been bored. But no! Firemen, policemen, taxi drivers, truckers, race car drivers, chauffeurs, demolition derby drivers, we could be anyone within the confines of those eight short streets.

Locked in our box we had complete creativity.



A Card Game to Teach Creativity Techniques

The concept of this creativity game is simple: deal a card onto the table; look at its simple design and make a list of all the objects it reminds you of; turn the card 90 degrees and repeat; compare your list with other players.

The Brainspin deck is composed of 52 cards with simple black on white images - the arms of an "X" connected, a circle with crossed lines intersecting the center, a semicircle. There are two blank cards to make your own shapes and you can download several other images from the game's web site.

The challenge of the game is to invent interpretations of the cards that are different from the interpretations of other players. The fun is in learning the variety of objects other people see in the same image. The game is appropriate for all ages and, in fact, would be more fun with an intergenerational group. Playing with a multicultural group would be especially entertaining as every individual would bring in their particular "foreign" perspective.

Brainspin presents a serious creative stretch and a fun excuse to view the world from the perspective of other people in an easily portable package.


Brainspin by Winning Moves Games, Danvers, MA, www.winning-moves.com




Creativity Within the Box
I don't really love this game. Brainspin is, in many ways, too simple.

Opening the pack, I didn't mind the stark black on white cards with lines drawn in uniform thickness. But I was disappointed that there were so many images that are boringly simple: a square, a circle, a hexagon, a fat rectangle and a skinny rectangle each with one line extended. Most of the pictures are tied to a similar angular symmetry with a minority of pictures based on curves. Free form asymmetry is absent. Unfortunately, the sketch on the back of each card (and the outside of the box) is more provocative than any of the cards in the deck.

The familiarity of the images makes it difficult to come up with original interpretations for the cards. As I flipped through the deck, trying to be imaginative became a chore. For this reason, the more diverse the group of players the better.

But this "fault" of Brainspin also suggests a solution.

When teaching techniques for creativity, we emphasize the importance of thinking outside the box; of expanding our innovation past a preconceived set of criteria or expectations. There are many strategies that allow us more freedom beyond the corral of our mental models. Once those techniques are practiced and assimilated, we find ourselves using them and benefiting from them more often.

Unfortunately, we don't always realize when our mental model might be holding us back. We might not always notice that we are under the undue influence of a set of values, an attitude, or a perspective. We may be too preoccupied to recognize that we have escaped the box only to be stuck inside a room.

However, practicing our creativity skills with the most boring Brainspin cards is a challenge of a greater order of magnitude. Confined by the familiarity of overly common shapes, we force ourselves to look for unique value in the images that are both the most quotidian and the least noticed. Like the 99-Word Story, we learn the ability to exercise complete creativity when we are unable to escape our constraints.

It's an opportunity to really sharpen our innovation senses because one day our biggest inventive challenge may be reworking something that was invented long ago.



Spin Out
Many inventive ideas are based upon a previous concept. Someone took an idea, altered it, and tried it in a new context for a novel result. Here is a way to use Brainspin cards to teach these idea morphing techniques. Be sure to end your session with a discussion that challenges your group to transfer the techniques from simple sketches on cards to their creativity situations at work.

Spin Out

Goal: To teach creativity techniques

Materials: One Die, Chart of Creativity Choices, Brainspin cards, Paper and Pencils

Participants: Groups of four to six

Time: 30 minutes

Preparation: Make a two column Chart of Creativity Choices. The first column should list a number 1 to 6. The second column should list six different creativity techniques. (See illustration.)

Procedure: The shortest person shuffles the Brainspin cards and turns one card face up on the table. The player to the left of the dealer rolls a die and, using the Chart of Creativity Choices as a guide, redraws the Brainspin card. (That person can choose whether to Extend or Shorten [#1] or whether to Zoom In or Out [#3]).)

Give everyone one minute to write down as many ideas as they can of what the new image might represent. Compare ideas and give players one point for each unique idea of their own.

The person wearing the brightest colors or the snazziest shoes becomes the dealer for the next round.


Did you use this activity or modify it somehow? Please !


If you like what you have read in this issue, I would like to bring the same innovation, creativity, and playfulness to your next meeting or learning event.

Whether you need a keynote speaker, or help with strategic planning, performance improvement, or training facilitators and trainers in your organization, I look forward to your call (802.257.7247) or .

-- Brian

Read previous issues. Click Library!
To add or delete your name to our mailing list, email with a short note in the subject line.

I want this newsletter to be practical, succinct, and thoughtful. If you have suggestions about how I can meet these criteria, please let me know! Send me an with your thoughts and ideas.

Home | Services | Products | Mission | Ideas | The Group | The Buzz
(c) 2016 The Firefly Group