When a paperclip becomes a key to creativity
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When a paperclip becomes a key to creativity




If you have ever been to an away day or creative workshop, you may well have come across an exercise involving a paperclip.

The basics of the exercise are that you are given an ordinary, run of the mill paperclip and you have to come up with as many uses for it as possible. The rule is that you can’t use it to hold papers together.

Once you can’t do the obvious thing, you have no choice but to look at it differently. Suggestions I have seen include:


  • an earring
  • a toothpick
  • a DVD drive opener
  • a bookmark
  • fishing hook
  • cocktail stick
  • a hair pin
  • a paint scraper
  • remove hair from a hair brush
  • a zip pull


You get the idea.

In truth, it doesn’t really matter what is produced at the end of the exercise.

What is important is the process, the taking of the object, stripping away the obvious use, bending it out of shape, turning it upside down, and coming up with as many new ways of viewing it as possible.

You can do it with any object: a saucepan can become a planter (or, as any child will show you, a really great hat)! A hat can become a tea cosy, a tea cosy can become a cotton wool ball holder….

And what you can do with objects, you can do it with ideas/habits/situations. If you are stuck, how many other ways can you think about the situation, when the obvious (to you) one is taken away?  For example:


  • You are going to your studio/office: if you can’t travel your usual route, how many other ways could you make the journey?
  • You always photograph in colour: how many other filters/finishes can you find for your image?
  • You always listen to Radio 4 when you work: what happens when you listen to other channels?
  • You always draw with an HB pencil: what other implements can you use?


You get the idea.

Take a situation or issue where you are stuck, take away the obvious answer, have fun and try something different to shake up your thinking. And if you are still stuck, play with a paperclip to get the creative juices flowing.


If this has struck a chord with you and you want to find out if coaching will support you in getting your creative juices flowing, check out how we could work together and get in touch.

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