Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

7 September 2010

Brainstorming, Cognition, #lrnchat, and Innovative Thinking

Clark @ 6:05 AM

Two recent events converged to spark some new thinking.

First, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Dave Gray, who I’d first met in Abu Dhabi where we both were presenting at a conference. Dave’s an interesting guy; he started XPlane as a firm to deliver meaningful graphics (which was recently bought by Dachis Group, and he’s recently been lead author on the book Gamestorming.

What Gamestorming is, I found out, is a really nice way to frame some common activities that help facilitate creative thinking.  Dave’s all over creativity, and took the intersection of game rules and structured activities to facilitate innovative thinking, and came up with a model that guides thinking about social interaction to optimize useful outcomes.  The approach incorporates, on a quick survey, a lot of techniques to overcome our cognitive limitations. I really like his approach to provide an underlying rationale about why activities that follow the structure implicitly address our cognitive limitations and are highly effective at getting individuals to contribute to some emergent outcomes.

I also happened to have a conversation with a lady who has been creating some local salons, particular get-togethers that have a structured approach to interaction (I’ve attended another such).  Hers was based upon biasing the conversation to the creative side, a very intriguing approach. Not only was she thinking of leveraging this for tech topics, but she was also thinking about leveraging new technologies, e.g., a Second Life Salon.

Which got me thinking that there were some relationships between Dave’s Gamestorming approach and the salons . I wouldn’t be surprised to find salons in Dave’s book!  Moreover, however, was that there are intriguing potentials from tapping into virtual worlds to remove the geographic constraints on such social interactions.

What was also interesting to me, reflecting on an early experience with the Active Worlds virtual world, your attention eventually focused on the chat stream, because that’s where all meaningful interaction really happened.  Which is really what #lrnchat is, a chat.   One of the nice properties of a chat is that you’re not limited to turn-taking.  A problem in the real world is that the more people you add, the less time each gets to contribute in a conversation. In a simultaneous medium like #lrnchat, everyone can contribute as fast as they can, and the only limitations are on the participants ability to process the stream and contribute (which are, admittedly, finite).  Still, it’s a richer medium for contribution, as I find I can process more chats in the same time only one person would talk (of course, the 140 char limit helps too).

The important thing to me is that social media have new capabilities to enable contribution, and achieve the innovation end that Dave’s excited about in ways that maximize the outcomes based upon new technology affordances that we are just beginning to appreciate.  Can we do better than we’ve done in the past, leveraging new technologies?  I think Dave’s model can serve for virtual as well as real events, and we may be able to improve upon the activities with some technology capabilities.  To do so, however, means we really have to look at our capabilities in conjunction with new technologies.  Yeah, I think we can have some fun with that ;).


  1. Clark, you’ve articulated something I’ve tried to clarify for myself in the past. While I don’t think Twitter chats are a panacea, I do think they have the potential for a lot of value. (In other words, they’re just another tool, and when you need a wood chisel, a wood chisel is just the thing you need.) As you say, you’re not limited to turn-taking.

    I remember one lrnchat whose participants included a certain Big Name. BN seemed perplexed and even distressed by the lack of structure. To me, BN couldn’t see how anything useful would happen without having designated presenters (dare I say “thought leaders?”).

    lrnchat does has a tendency to lean toward “ain’t social media great?” As you say, though, anyone who’s around can participate; there’s no designated status, and the facilitators limit themselves to explaining the format and tweeting the session’s questions.

    Comment by Dave Ferguson — 8 September 2010 @ 5:05 AM

  2. I love the idea of learnlet, short learning segments, quick reads that make one think and apply quickly.

    Comment by hazel wagner — 8 September 2010 @ 8:32 AM

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