Windtunnel !!!

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
Winsights No. 55 (November 2001)

The following is a draft of a brand-new procedure for solving problems. It was invented in July 2001 and has passed a number of tests since, with flying colors.

Its teaching-method counterpart also tested out superlatively well, and you will find its instructions given in step-by-step detail in Winsights No. 52 in this website.

We already have a dozen of the world’s best creative problem-solving techniques, and of the world’s best teaching and learning techniques, online here free for anyone in the world to use on his or her own situation. For all these techniques, including the present technique, Windtunnel, we’re providing complete specifics, detailed easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions.

Most of these techniques can be performed, if need be, by an individual working alone with a tape recorder, though working with live partners is far better. With a live or prospective audience, you don’t slop as many short-cuts in perception and thought, you describe your awarenesses differently, and you hear yourself differently, and that makes a huge difference in developing your own perceptions.

For this particular technique — Windtunnel — your need for a live listener or listeners is even more vital. You really do need to have at least a small group, multiple pairs, to work this with, or the stimulus level will fall short of what is needed for events to really take off. You are welcome, indeed strongly invited, to try this one out with some friends.

Here is why Windtunnel has a major advantage over other Creative Problem-Solving (CPS) techniques: We all grew up on the model of conventional levels of discussion. We still tend to fall back into that, and when groups do that, they usually fail to make any real progress toward discovering a solution. Witness the talk shows which continue to model the old, ineffectual discussion process. Even that most wonderful listserve group and island of civilization, ImageStreaming @, forgets itself and falls back into conventional discussion, stalling short of effective resolution on some issues.

In contrast, one of the strengths of Windtunnel is that it blows quickly THROUGH that familiar phase and tendency, and forces everyone through to the point where they are already digging for fresh insights. That usually brings the ingenious solution or resolution apparent. The rest of the time it can set up beautifully the further hunt-for-solution through whichever other CPS technique is then engaged, a brilliant combination of effects.

Windtunnel turns our predisposition for conventional discussion and I’m-right-manship from a weakness into a strength. I hope you get friends together and have fun with this one, very soon.

Here are the draft scripted instructions for Windtunnel:


Those of you who are well familiar with “brainstorming” know that the best ideas are generated near the end of the brainstorming session, after the fluff and trite stuff has been gotten out of the way. If you aren’t really familiar with brainstorming, please go to Gravel Gulch in the CPS Techniques section of this website and try to become familiar with it. Or, dig into the “Stretching to See Further” chapter in your copy of that great book, Discovering the Obvious. Or dig out some of the prolific literature on the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem-Solving system which heads the world-wide creativity movement.

Those of you who are well familiar with Freenoting know that the best ideas are generated near the end of the freenoting sessions, after the fluff and trite stuff has been gotten out of the way. If you aren’t really familiar with Freenoting, please go to Freenoting in the T&L; Techniques section of this website and try to become familiar with it.

Those of you who have read Betty Edwards’ famous book, Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain, and tried her famous exercise of drawing a picture upside down, know that our perceptions and responses are far more accurate once we’ve gotten out of our way the fluff, the trite and stock responses we have for nearly everything, our short-cuts in perception and thinking…. Once we’ve gotten past these, we can become remarkably perceptive, effective and creative.

Those of you who have been extensively through the Project Renaissance website, or have attended a few thinktanks or a training session, know that, on problems which haven’t resolved based upon review of what we know about them, what we “know” about them has gotten in the way of the fresh perceptions we need wherein to discover our really great answers and solutions.

All of these impediments are literally blown out of the way in the following Freenoting-like procedure, Windtunnel, even though very little writing is involved.

The Procedure

Once your group is in partnered pairs, here are the instructions to be read to them for them to follow, allowing appropriate time with each step so that they can carry out that instruction …

  1. Each pair of you decide the topic, world issue, or general problem you would like to address for purposes of this session.
  2. Each of you make a list of five very different questions ABOUT this general topic, and don’t let your partner see your questions. Number these five. Your partner now becomes the “Windtunneler” and you become the “Listener.” Go through Steps 3-6 below, in those roles. Complete that process before reversing roles as in Step 7.
  3. Have your partner call out a number between one and five.
  4. From among your five questions, read your partner that numbered question.
  5. Have your partner tell, in a descriptive rapid-flow torrent, EVERYTHING that comes to his or her mind in the context of that question and its answer or answers. Have your partner SUSTAIN that torrential flow for six minutes, without any letup.
  6. Write down the 1 or 2 most interesting ideas you heard during that torrent, and please have your partner write down the one or two most interesting ideas stated in that torrent…
  7. Participants now reverse roles and repeat this process the other way. After this cycle is complete, let’s check — Where did you find the most interesting ideas — near the start or near the end of your torrent and your partner’s torrent?
    • You will find that 99% of the time, the best ideas occurred near the end, very much in keeping with findings from brainstorming and Freenoting. This will justify doing one more question cycle each way as per above, this time going for sustained 8- to 10-minute torrent
    • I guarantee that even if some silly or even plain wrong ideas are in the front of the torrent, as with a brainstorm, really good and meaningful insights will start cropping up and predominate toward the end, and you will have a spectacularly better grasp and understanding of the topic or issue than would otherwise have been the case. From here:
  8. Proceed to elegantly and effectively solve/resolve the issue or problem which was your starting point for this experience, by whichever of the dozens of ultra-effective creative problem-solving methods you please.

Based on results here and elsewhere, Windtunnel may become the first step in a three-step Creative Problem-Solving procedure defined for any CPS method. The second step would be the specific technique, such as Over-the-Wall or High Thinktank; the third would be implementation and evaluation.

Over the past few months we have tested out, on different groups, many different forms of “Windtunnel.” The main version, above, is still the one we’d use in a formal thinktank going after some important problem or issue. However, we find that for most purposes the following shortened version will do very nicely:

  • Instead of five sub-questions to choose among, use three.
  • One 10- or 11-minute torrent per partner, instead of two.

We’ve seen some people reverse the instructions and answer their own questions instead of their partner’s. This will work either way. However, people have much more energy up for their own questions, and what we’ve seen indicates this works better if people are answering their own questions. The whole idea with the sub-questions and the numbers is to get past the speeches and get people as quickly as possible to the point where they run out of things to say and have to start digging. It’s the digging that’s productive.

Jens Reineking offers this adaptation for doing Windtunnel alone:

As a very simple form/combination for single users, I would propose to write down three or six questions for a topic, number them, then roll a die (low-tech random number generator!). Take the number the die shows and enter Windtunnel with a tape recorder instead of a live partner. For three questions the paired numbers one/two, three/four, and five/six would indicate which question to take — 1, 2 or 3, respectively. Then proceed as with standard Windtunnel.