Observation Journal: The consequences of current events

Scan of a double page of the observation journal, handwritten. On the left, five things seen, heard and done, and a picture of a tree. On the right, a tree diagram of "5 current things that would have had a big effect on the project".

This observation journal page is an activity I was planning to set my students. The steps were as follows:

  • consider the project they were working on for class (or come up with a ridiculous idea: see Observation Journal — Improbable Inventions);
  • look in the news and find 5 current events;
  • consider the sort of effect those events might have on the project/idea; and
  • come up with at least 3 possible variations to the idea in consequence of that impact.

So, for example, you might be planning a cocktail bar. The big local news, however, is about an unprecedented rise in the crocodile population in the area! So you might make sure your bar is crocodile-proofed, and offer crocodile-trained security escorts to and from the carpark, and/or build a viewing platform and sell crocodile-themed cocktails. And silly as that is, it does prompt lines of thought about safety and aesthetics and marketing.

However this was at the end of March 2020, so current events (postal delays and lockdowns and the economy) seemed more all-encompassing than they had been used to. That made the activity feel very earnest, and therefore (in my opinion) inclined to be a little wearying. (The project I was trying it out on was a deck of creative prompts, and the silliest/best lockdown idea was to use the cards as exercise prompts.) I still think it’s a useful exercise/stress-test. But crocodiles would have been more fun.

A lesson I learned from doing the activity, unrelated to the point of the activity itself, was to not rule out listing duplicate ideas. I’d initially tried to make them all original ideas, but that bogged everything down.

Allowing myself to list duplicate ideas/consequences made it easier to:

  • come up with more original ideas later, by getting the obvious out of the way and out of my head — otherwise those ideas just keep floating around and getting in the way of new ones (this is part of the usefulness of the twenty-things approach to ideas, too);
  • collect groups of ideas that had elements in common;
  • notice patterns in my own thoughts; and
  • find solutions that might solve more than one problem.

After that, I started letting myself repeat ideas and state the obvious, as long as I later pushed on to include three new solutions for each problem, in addition to any duplicates.

Tiny pen drawing of a little stand of trees

The drawing above directly contributed to the June Calendar: Ominous Little Groves.

(And a few pages working through how to work in distracting times are here: Observation Journal — creative superstitions and working in distracting times).

1 thought on “Observation Journal: The consequences of current events

  1. Pingback: January 2021 — round-up of posts | Kathleen Jennings

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