An intriguing creative thinking twist at the Boulder Journey School Summer Conference runs counter to all but one other event I've spoken at or attended in the past several years.

What’s the twist?

It was the spoken expectation that attendees would take no more than five pictures of the Boulder Journey School environment. These five pictures were all to be taken during an ice cream and exploration break on the conference's second afternoon.

Creative Thinking - Focusing Your Ideas BEFORE You Get Creative

I first learned about the five picture creative thinking and implementation constraint during our preparatory calls for my conference presentation. There are several reasons for the request, including keeping attendees focused on experiencing the current moment, not clogging the narrow hallways with picture takers throughout the event, and helping to reinforce the message that teachers and administrators shouldn't expect to recreate exactly what Bolder Journey School has done.


Boulder-Journey-Selfie L to R: @teachercoder, @Brainzooming, @accruick


The five picture expectation, while obviously grounded in a strategic rationale, does seem counter to the school's philosophy of creative exploration - at least creative exploration as most of us have come to think of it in the age of digital assets. Being limited to five photos along with the expectation that attendees would spend 1 1/2 days of creative thinking time to explore and select what the five photos should be is a huge throwback to the days before digital assets:

  • When you had to print a picture to know how it looked, so you were careful about getting things right the first time
  • When you had to type something on paper and couldn't easily edit it after it was typed, so you focused on outlining and crafting polished prose
  • When creating a "moving picture" involved physically processing film, then splicing it, so you didn't just show up, start shooting, and see what happens

Yes, the five-picture expectation causes different creative thinking and creative behaviors. It makes you:

  • Think and plan where you will focus your creative energy before expending it
  • Edit your creative aspirations to stay within a very real creative constraint
  • Get it as close to right the first time as you can since you can't simply pick five great photos from two hundred photos you took and call it good


BJSSC-Orange-Socks My Incredible Speaker's Gift from #BJSSC15 - Orange Socks!


Wonder how I did with the five picture creative thinking and implementation constraint?

In the next post, I’ll show you what SIX things I considered creatively intriguing enough to be picture-worthy!Mike Brown

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