Change Of Setting

This is a pattern I thought of while reading a thread of discussion on the patterns-discussion list. Comments please!

Pattern: Change Of Setting

	Author: DavidHooker

Problem: A design effort (or any intense cognitive effort) is bogging down. New ideas are not forthcoming. People are getting frustrated and tired of thinking about the problem.

Context/Forces: The work being done usually takes place in the same location, such as an office or cubicle, lab, or meeting room. The work is being done by an individual or small group.

Solution: Create a change in setting. Go somewhere else. Go outside and think. Go to a different room and think. Get up and walk around and think. In the case of a large work effort, go off-site for a few days. The changes in surroundings usually causes changes in thought processes, stimulating the creative and analytical processes.

Try a more relaxing atmosphere. A relaxed mind stimulates creative thought. Stress sometimes blocks rational thought and hinders team communication.

Resulting Context: A different (and more relaxed) setting, allowing the individual or group to resume working on the problem with renewed energy and success.

Feedback Section

I just bought my team at ChryslerCorp? a Nerf football shaped like a brain. We play the usual game of catch with it (frontal lobe first you can get a decent spiral if you're careful), but the most fun are all the stupid puns you can make with it. Best distraction I've seen in a while.
  -- KentBeck

This really reminds me of the card game "Give Me The Brain" from CheapassGames?. Hunt it out, buy it and play it. Team work will never be the same again. --FrankCarver

Sounds good. I would take it even further and say to do something completely unrelated to work in order to stimulate the creative juices. When you hit a mental block it is sometimes best to let your subconscious work on it for a while. So, don't just leave the office and think. Leave the office and think about something else.

Every time I change jobs, I always bring my dartboard with me. I use it with my teams to present a ChangeOfSetting. We don't throw darts and discuss the problem, we throw darts and ignore the problem.

Go ahead, go outside and play a while. Break out of the mental rut. If that doesn't help, try something like a CreativeWhackPack.

-- ToddCoram
Good pattern! This is why we keep a frisbee hanging on the bulletin board in the break room at KSC. Whenever a SmalltalkApprenticeProgram is reaching a state of non-productivity, the mentors grab it and shove the apprentices out the door with it. It's amazing how much of a change this can make!

Interesting with the frisbee! I like to juggle. For some reason, the fact that I have to focus almost entirely on something so simple really helps clear my mind of extraneous things. Then I can devote my full thoughts to the problem at hand again with a more keen and clear focus.


I think this was really a ProtoPattern when I wrote it down, since the only Known Use I could think of was my own. However, now that Todd and Kyle have both also mentioned that they do this too, it has been UsedThreeTimes. So now it's a pattern.


I think this is a good idea, but I'm not sure why I'd put it in pattern form: That is, I don't get a sense of catharthis from reading the pattern.

Don't get me wrong--this is a good idea, it works, and you find it in most creativity curricula. I just think that some solutions beg for pattern form and some don't. For me, this one doesn't. I don't get much from reading this that I wouldn't get from:
If you get bogged down during creative thinking, stimulate your thinking with a change of setting.
-- JimCoplien

How about some more discussion on WhenToUsePatternForm.


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