Monday, April 7, 2014

Oblique Strategies to Overcome Mental Blocks

Applicants to All Soul's College at Oxford were required -- until recently --  to write essays in response to a single-word prompt within three hours. These essays were used to gain insight into prospective students' ability to be imaginative and leverage their existing knowledge to make connections (Seelig, 2012, cited in Tina Seelig's MOOC, Creativity: Music to My Ears, 2014).

In a recent meeting, the word "vulnerability" in learning surfaced. I was inspired to associate the word with several books I'd read and some life experiences -- akin to how "oblique strategies" (original concept by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt) are used. [Vulnerability (in learning) will be the inspiration for my next blogpost.] Briefly, Eno and Schmidt joined forces in the '70s to work on oblique strategies after they discovered that they were working on a similar idea. Short phrases or questions were created and printed on cards as prompts to break an impasse and forge a way ahead. 

An online version is available at There are also mobile apps for these strategies. Thanks to my course peer, Jose Sanchez, from Tina's MOOC for pointing me to these apps. I've installed 2 of them on my phone!

2 Oblique Strategies apps on my mobile phone

An excellent illustration of how oblique strategies work is how Jason Mraz uses a phrase or a song game to spark his creative songwriting process. Check out his video below. Other musicians are also said to have used them for inspiration (Wikipedia, 2014).

Jason Mraz "rain dance" from Stanford Tech Ventures Program on Vimeo.

Again, many thanks to Tina Seelig and my fellow learners in the Creativity MOOC for generously sharing these resources with us!

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