Archive for the ‘Activity’ Category

Activity: LwL The Principal Dialogues

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

I’ve been partnering with Learn with Leaders (LwL) on YCISL programs for about 8 months. It has inspired and enabled me to reach out to new horizons and focus on Zoom-enabled coaching. It’s been a fun challenge.

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in an event called “The Principal Dialogues” where LwL invited a group of school heads/principals for a Popcorn with Colin-like online Zoom discussion group. The event came about as a result of discussions about how to partner with schools with our new series of online programs. As reflected by my organizing partner in Japan, it may be that (1) schools are still putting their focus and energy into re-grouping from the virus-induced disruption and concentrating on curriculum continuity,  or (2) the on again-off again switches creates too much uncertainty to make commitments. To find out more, we thought we would ask the school leaders.

We came up with an agenda where everyone took a turn to warm-up the discussion by sharing their reflections as an educator in 2020. For my part, I mentioned the ITW program and the five skills being coached, the NIFTI-SEWSS Scholars Program seminar series, and the in-progress NIFTI Roundtable planning activity. The uncertainty about whether we would resonate quickly dissipated as we found several in-common areas of thought. And we did this despite varying levels of disruption – or even non-disruption as described by Guy (Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Perth WA). Here are a few “bites” from the discussion (what I managed to jot down):

  • Awareness. We heard from Caroline (Liger Leadership Academy) about the importance of self-awareness. Mark (The British School, New Delhi) connected this to metacognition and the “snowflake” condition. To me, this fits well with my YCISL interest in emotional intelligence and the application of design thinking to developing a personal brand identity through our “Your Personal Story” exercises. I think the issue is that there is a common belief that one’s awareness and brand identity is already naturally present and needs no additional investment or work. The problem is in the form and function being absent of EQ.
  • Playfulness Quotient. Many of the participants identified social isolation as a front-line issue during the current educational rollercoaster ride. This isolation has inhibited in-person social interaction as well as creating new connections. Like a neural network, there is a decay going on. Monica (Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon) raised the term “Playfulness Quotient” which piqued my interest as it resonated with the YCISL activities (eg, ping pong game) emphasizing play as a means for sparking creativity. This “PQ” idea extends well from Tim Brown’s “Tales of Creativity & Play” from which we learn that interventional action is needed during the school years to ensure happiness and well-being for life.
  • Thinking Skills and a Culture of Creativity. I am 100% sure that everyone present has “thinking skills” as a top priority. I specifically recall Meenakshi (Modern School, Delhi) bringing up the topic. This is one of those “simple, but not easy” areas because teachers are broadly accountable for the answers students give, but not the “thinking” route that led to the answer. At this point, I believe everyone jumped in to wonder whether teachers need to join this discussion. For my YCISL contribution, I offered the recommendation to visit Jef Raskin’s article “Holes in the Histories” to find a list of ways people mis-lead themselves as well as others with information that is mis-understood or mis-interpreted.

I would also like to acknowledge Kai (British School Muscat), Dominic (Liger Leadership Academy), and Gerald (North Jakarta Intercultural School) for their shared insights as well; my note-taking just wasn’t quick enough. Regardless, the international scope of the present challenge is clear.

Events: YCISL Innovators Toolkit Workshop (ITW)…Cartoon Examples

Monday, January 18th, 2021

Here is a set of cartoons made in Pixton on the five YCISL Innovators Toolkit Workshop (ITW) skills that we focus on. Do these help the explanation of these skills?

*Source credit for magnesium-chocolate story:
**Dumpling image downloaded from

Activity: Pixton for YCISL Cartooning

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

Once in a while, I try to change up the style of my presentations. Usually I work on the color palette, typefaces and (more recently) adding slide animations. has been a favorite and I have made quite a few flyers and slide backgrounds there. Today, I looked up cartooning tools and came across Pixton. In about 20 minutes, I produced a cartoon about divergent-convergent thinking. There were some things about the experience I really liked (eg, postures and facial expressions) and a couple of things that were somewhat limited. It was fun! Now I have to think up other storyboards.


Plan: Divergent-Convergent Thinking (Popcorn Series)

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

The Popcorn with Colin (PwC) series started in mid-2020 as a means of connecting with students in the virtual space to chat about creativity and developments in the YCISL program. Each PwC meeting, a short 60 to 90 minutes with a small group of 5 to 12 students, is designed to create engagement and the sharing of viewpoints (where you are) and perspectives (what you see). I’ll write up more about it in another article; it’s been going well and should have good future pick-up.

This wiki entry focuses on an upcoming PwC meeting where I would like to discuss Divergent-Convergent Thinking (DCT). I will probably follow-up that PwC with a YCISL White Paper to share action items that “pop” up. DCT has been a part of the YCISL workshops for about 5 years and more recently it was included in the Innovators Toolkit publications on the YCISL web site and the Innovators Toolkit Workshops (ITW). And I just made a short presentation last week on DCT in the NIFTI-SEWSS program; the response from students has been fantastic.

The tentative agenda for that PwC is:

– What is it and why is it a useful creativity skill?
– Checking our divergent thinking (brainstorming) skill…an exercise.
– Applying divergent-convergent thinking to a research project. A group discussion.

The new part that needs development is the connection of DCT to research methods and skills. I’ve heard from many YCISL students that they would like to improve their research skills and find research opportunities. I found the figure below which I think could lend structure to a presentation on research applications of DCT. Inspiration, ideation and implementation are practical stages to step through in all aspects of research (I will focus on proposal writing, experimental design, and reporting). I will need to remember to embed this in a design thinking teamwork and collaboration context because research needs to be people-connected.

That’s all I wanted to share for now about the PwC DCT plan.

Thought: Are Jigsaw Puzzles Good for Training Divergent-Convergent Thinking and Creativity?

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

One of my newest obsessive hobbies is now jigsaw puzzles. After completing about 10 puzzles in the past 3 months, I have begun to wonder whether jigsaw puzzles build creativity and are a good example of an activity that uses divergent-convergent thinking. Could a jigsaw puzzle exercise be designed for YCISL workshops just like how we have a Lego activity to demonstrate rapid team prototyping?

Putting together jigsaw puzzles involves creative energy because there are many solution paths and solution strategies. Also, there are multiple and switchable directions: finding a piece that fits a hole or edge(s), or finding a hole or edge that fits the piece you have picked up. There are trial-and-error methods as well as visualization methods that involve rapid eye movement. There is not only shape matching. One could involve color matching as hints. So even though the end result should be the same assembled puzzle (assuming you finish the puzzle), there is a creative element because of the variations that are essentially guaranteed; even if I were to solve the puzzle twice, it is improbable that the exact same solution path would be repeated – and think of the probability that the same time-based profile would be repeated.

Let us also consider how jigsaw puzzles would make a good model for training divergent-convergent thinking. Usually, the jigsaw puzzle pieces have some sort of distinguishable pattern based on the number and directionality of the tabs and slots. These are sortable features and are part of my strategy. So given a particular hole or edge waiting to be connected with a piece, there are certain piece patterns that could be fit and other patterns that could be deductively reasoned not to be a fit candidate. So we can select several candidates to fit a position – this would be the divergent thinking step. We could choose two or more candidates for a hole using the criteria of the moment. We would start our convergent step by selecting a candidate piece and trying to attach it. If there is a perfect fit, great! (but sometimes it is a fake fit), and if that piece was not the right fit, then we would go back to the pool of candidates or create a new pool of candidates (if we learned something from that non-fit attempt where we figured the pool was not going to work). The big bonus of using jigsaw puzzles to model divergent-convergent thinking is the fast thinking cycle aspect because the divergent-convergent thinking steps are usually repeated in clusters. These clusters could be sized by varying the time periods spent on finding matches.

With the creativity and divergent-convergent aspects confirmed, what fun ways might there be to make this worthy of a workshop workout? The first round might involve individual efforts establishing the time periods of sustainable puzzle solving (ie, how long before you need to take a break and rest the mind and eyes?) The next level might be a team effort to reflect interpersonal communication and group dynamics skills. A trick version might be to include a piece that doesn’t actually belong.

The jigsaw puzzle lessons would be compared to real world problems where the pieces may or may not be at our disposal, and we have to practice divergent-convergent thinking with an understanding that the final product may be quite different from what we expected at the start.

Fun. Can’t wait to try it. Now if only I can figure out a version of this that would work over Zoom.


NYT: Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

I came across this article through LinkedIn today. The article lists various ways to re-engage with each other especially during this time of un-shakeable stress. “Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations” is an Opinion article by David Brooks dated November 29, 2020 on

The author’s suggestions make sense to me and I will undoubtedly be spending some time thinking how to turn these into YCISL workshop actions. But because I am currently engaged in a series of Popcorn with Colin discussions on creativity, in particular a tribute to Sir Ken Robinson’s epic TEDTalk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” (originally titled “Schools Kill Creativity.”), I will dwell on the suggestion to “Ask Open-Ended Questions” and the timeliness of this for the online learning pivot.

This idea fits into the Divergent-Convergent Thinking and Asking Questions component of the YCISL Innovators Toolkit series. Open-ended questions (or problems which are inviting of innovative solutions) have the potential to stimulate and strengthen creativity. So the task is not to simply ask an open-ended question, but to frame a worldview that accommodates various perspectives and past experiences. We need to use design thinking in creating open-ended questions.

I haven’t had much practice at this, but let’s give it a few application attempts.

Here is a Physics homework problem I found on the web:

Gravitational Potential Energy GPE = mg∆h
12. A 5.0 kg mass is initially sitting on the floor when it is lifted onto a table 1.15 meters high at
a constant speed.
a. How much work will be done in lifting this mass onto the table?
b. What will be the gravitational potential energy of this mass, relative to the floor, once it is
placed on the table?
c. What was the initial gravitational potential energy, relative to the floor, of this mass while
sitting on the floor?

What if we changed this question to “Place a dumb bell (or other object) on the floor. Lift it onto a table at a constant speed. Use a scale and/or tape measure, if desired. It’s ok to estimate.”? Would this be too challenging? Could this be a more fun application-type question that helps the student use visualization as well as experimentation skills? Not all the questions would have to re-framed this way. But it does give a more first-person real world feel about how science applies to things we do on a daily basis.

And here is a Chemistry homework problem I found on the web:

Coffee cooling
A mug of coffee cools from 100 ℃ to room temperature, 20 ℃. The mass of the coffee is
m = 0.25 kg and its specific heat capacity may be assumed to be equal to that of water,
c = 4190 J. kg-1. K-1.
Calculate the change in entropy
(i) of the coffee
(ii) of the surroundings

What if we changed this question to “Your morning mug of coffee/tea/water cools to room temperature. Use a scale and/or thermometer, if available. Otherwise estimate.”? Hopefully, everyone has been aware at some point that a hot beverage gives off warmth and gradually cools. There is also the intrinsic motivation factor (that we are fond of in YCISL) where we involve mastery, autonomy and purpose (added through the use of another Innovator Toolkit skill: Filling & Crossing Gaps).

As another example, I require online seminar logs for a seminar course at Stanford. This is for proof of attendance. But instead of asking for a summary of the seminar presentation, the question is “Describe in 2-3 sentences how this talk connects with or relates to your interests, or your MS studies.” In general, most responses will be quite different reflecting perspectives and background. This makes it more interesting and informative for me. Note though that some students find this open-ended question challenging and defer to the seminar abstract as a basis for their thoughts – as opposed to internal stimulation and connections.

Re-reading the examples above, there is probably more fine-tuning possible to engage each other better. An example is to use the Positivity Innovator Toolkit skill and “garnish” the problems with emotionally positive words and uplifting expressions. “Your delicious morning mug of…

A good topic for future discussion.


Exercise: Divergent-Convergent Thinking Training Worksheet

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

We introduce the idea of divergent-convergent thinking cycles in our YCISL workshops. It is the structured pathway method to creative thinking, decision making and problem solving. School curricula generally emphasize convergent thinking only which limits creativity.

Three years after releasing the Turn the Donkey lesson, a Divergent-Convergent Thinking Trainer lesson is being released to our YCISL LinkedIn group.

This exercise is intended for practice and as a reminder to apply divergent-convergent thinking cycles in our creative behavior. The exercise comprises a series of worksheets each formatted slightly differently to inculcate agility in how we apply the method to different situations.

The first worksheet being released introduces divergent-convergent thinking in its simplest 2-choice form. Subsequent lines on the worksheet then stretch the divergent part of the exercise. Currently, the exercises converge on a single item, but in reality convergence could be on a group.

An example, run with the DIRECTIONS prompt with two circles and one square, might have Up (1st circle), Down (2nd circle) and Up (square) as an answer set.

The purpose is to train agility into the practice of divergent-convergent thinking, but also to familiarize us with the steps: interpreting the prompt, starting, completing the divergent part, and quickly finishing with the convergent part. Speed is key, but so is confidence in getting through the cycle.

And once the cycle is complete, a creative person should be able to start another cycle right away if needed.

Marvel, Prototyping & The Fast Thinking App

Friday, September 6th, 2019

Screen Shot 2019-06-19 at 8.39.05 AMI recently learned about Marvel as a software prototyping tool from Tammi Feng. It has re-ignited my interest in software design (my last flame with software design was with Swift, but that faded within 3 months because it kept changing).

Marvel may have a place in the YCISL workshops. It seems easy to learn – especially what it can do and what might have to be compromised. But it fuels the design and process imagination and would be a great tool for project studio teams that want to produce an app. For our prototyping phase, it would support our “Fail Early, Fail Fast” mindtool (a component of our innovator mindset).


The Straits Times: 6 in 10 S’porean households recycle weekly, though misconceptions about the process remain: Surveys

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Slide1Household recycling is still an immature process – meaning plenty of confusion, indifference and emotional un-intelligence. This The Straits Times article by Ng Huiwen published on April 29, 2019 titled “6 in 10 S’porean households recycle weekly, though misconceptions about the process remain: Surveys” reminds me of my own household’s behavior with respect to recycling as well as how government policies keep getting in the way of creating sustainable recycling behavior (eg, the plastic bag ban). Thus with the condition of wanting so much more out of a good cause, we can possibly take on this problem scope for the YCISL workshop team projects.


Purpose: To design solutions utilizing YCISL strengths that enable optimizable recycling behavior in homes.

How: For this pilot-level project, team projects will be required to include fast-thinking conditioning, instrinsic motivation leveraging, and emotional intelligence smart-ness.

Methodology: Team products could be service-oriented, educational (various media or channels), interfacial (eg, using HCI), interactive (eg, with feedback), gadget (something to install or carry) or programmatic (crowd-sourced or information campaign). To optimize, make it simple AND easy.

Rules (who needs rules?): No financial aspect will be considered.

Workshop Group Introductions

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

In the early YCISL workshops, we used to have the usual self-introductions at the start with a random question thrown in such as “What is your favorite [something]?” Then we also played the action-name game for many years where each student pairs their name with a word and act out an action related to that word.

I am also now thinking of adding an exercise where we look at our same-ness and differences. At a simple level (depending on available time), I would have pairs of students confer with each other and come up with three things they have in common, and three things which are different. This could extended into a speed dating format where pairs switch partners and create a same/different list for each person they meet. In the end, we would tally the number of similarities and differences, and maybe even categorize them. This would give a good snapshot (with a quantitative element) of the group.

As is the usual YCISL style, the instructions will be kept simple: identify three similarities and three differences. The categories will be up to each pair to choose – by asking divergent thinking questions, exchanging through active listening, and converging on their list. The quantitative part would establish connectedness as well as individual and group identities.

It would be interesting to get some of this information up on the screen using Mentimeter.