Games: More creativity

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Indy Lifestyle Online
How do you turn a newspaper column into an international competition? When the organisers of the first "Mind Sports Olympiad" asked me if I could run a Creativity competition for them, it would have been uncreative to say no. So, with no idea of what I was going to do, I agreed. And that is how the event, which the MSO propagandists had the temerity to call the "World Creativity Championship", began.

We started, in the style validated over many creative Independent years, with the theme of unusual uses for common objects. In round one, the 45 contestants were set two tasks: first, to list as many uses as they could for a soft-boiled egg; then to find uses for a pair of conches (available for inspection).

The contestants were allowed 20 minutes to complete both tasks, and were told that greater credit would be given for producing ideas that were out of the ordinary. The marking scheme was in fact generated from the answers themselves. After quickly reading through a dozen sets of answers, I could quickly judge which responses were the most mundane. For the soft- boiled egg, almost everyone said "eat it" (one man scored a bonus point for not saying "eat it") and most thought of putting it back on the stove to make a hard-boiled egg. Using the yolk as yellow paint was also popular, but putting it into your pocket to simulate elephantiasis of one testicle was clearly a response of a higher order of creativity. While most contestants also thought of using it as a missile, one embellished that idea by specifying that it be used in a political demonstration against "a hard-boiled dictator".

By distinguishing between mundane and exceptional creativity, I was able to award each contestant three marks: the first for a raw number of distinct responses, the second (carrying most weight) for the unusual responses, and the third for general breadth of vision.

The seashells were popular as drinking vessels, loudspeakers, knuckle- dusters, wind-chimes, earmuffs, bras and for listening to the sea, but I particularly liked the ideas of selling them as the latest in condoms, using one to break the other, and holding them to the ears of dolphins and asking them if they could hear the land.

Round two was a round of similarities and differences:

1. List as many similarities as you can think of between the Princess of Wales and an orange.

2. List as many differences as you can between a zip and buttons.

Navels, withering with age, the Royal House of Orange and the Orange phone network all cropped up a good deal, as did their sweet, tasty and cuddly natures. More choice suggestions were that they both appear often in hospitals, both have a certain zest, both have been squeezed by the swarthy sons of grocers, Prince Charles has talked to both, both are out of their tree, both are squidgy and both have been enjoyed at half-time by rugby players and then discarded.

In round three, they were invited to describe the invention that will sweep the world next year (intelligent vacuum cleaners and sleep inducers were very popular, but perhaps the most unusual was a device to harness the energy expended by pets), and the final round was to suggest questions for next year's Creativity competition. We're keeping these answers to ourselves. They could come in useful. The winner was Philip Bateman, who turned out to be the creative director of a South African advertising agency.