The Absolutely Very Worst Possible Idea Ever – Bay Area Discovery Museum

The Absolutely Very Worst Possible Idea Ever

Imagine the absolute very worst possible way to complete a task! This is harder than it sounds. Typically, everyone’s first inclination is to figure out the best way to complete a task or make something—but this activity asks the opposite. This group activity challenges children to think in opposites, which can be a useful strategy for creativity.

Materials Required

  • Paper
  • Pen or pencil

Instructions

1. Pick any scenario from the list below:

  • Walk a dog
  • Get a drink of water
  • Get from home to school
  • Find a new pet
  • Make a sandwich

2. Now try to imagine the very worst possible way to do these things. Write down the ideas.

3. Share your ideas with a partner and see if he or she can come up with an even worse way to do the same thing.

Additional Tips

Try these add-on activities:

  • Do the activity solo. Instead of sharing ideas with a partner, record the ideas in a notebook and ask a friend later if they can come up with an even worse way to do it.
  • Come up with new scenarios, and then do the activity.

Links to Creativity

Most of the time when given a task or list of things to do, we jump right into figuring out how to do them best. Well, how about trying to do them as poorly as possible? Sometimes thinking of opposites can be a useful strategy for creativity. In fact, creativity research has called it Janusian thinking, or looking at something from opposite perspectives. Another interesting part of this activity is how it encourages contrarianism, or doing things differently than others. Oftentimes, doing what isn’t expected has led to some of the most clever ideas and products being created. Such violations of expectation lead to surprising discoveries and actually help to explain why some jokes are funny!

Supporting research includes:

Lachmann, F. M. (2006). Violations of expectations in creativity and perversion. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 26(3), 362-385.

O’Quin, K., & Derks, P. (1997). Humor and creativity: A review of the empirical literature. In M. A. Runco (Ed.), The Creativity Research Handbook (Vol. 1) (pp. 223-252). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Rothenberg, A. (1971). The process of Janusian thinking in creativity. Archives of General Psychiatry, 24(3), 195-205.

Contributor

This activity was contributed by the Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. ©2014 Bay Area Discovery Museum. It is adapted with permission from Keith Sawyer’s “Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity.” Sawyer, K. (2013). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. For more information and resources see CenterforChildhoodCreativity.org and ZigZagCreate.com.

The Absolutely Very Worst Possible Idea Ever

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