All About OM

Practice Drills

Stories & Humor


World Finals


Odyssey of the Mind Creativity Site
The OM Spontaneous Archive





Fun With Index Cards

Have the team practice building structures out of a specified number of index cards. This helps the team learn about strength and balance in structures.

Penny Tossing

As we all know, the ability to aim is essential to creativity. Practice throwing pennies and other small objects into cups, onto paper plates, etc.

Emphasizing Creativity

On a "Name things that..." problem, to emphasize creativity as opposed to pure speed, give each team member 5 index cards. The team has the same amount of time to respond, but responses can be in any order, and upon giving a response, that team member surrenders an index card. Use a 5, 3, and 1 point scoring system to distinguish different levels of creativity.

Speed Spontaneous (Submitted by Whet Moser)

Split the team into groups of four, or preferably three. Let two or three team members compete, and the others judge. Give the competing team members a verbal problem, with the usual rules. When they are done, rotate members so the judges get a chance. This not only builds speed, but forces team members to focus on the thinking time, as there is almost no time to think between answers. (Two of my teammates and I have tested this method the day before competition, and found it very helpful.)

What Could Go Wrong? A Problem to Prepare for Long-Term submitted by Dave Woods

Three minutes to think, five to respond. What can go wrong during a skit, and what can be done to recover from the problem? Serious responses, 3 points, intentionally silly responses, 1 point. Derivative responses encouraged. Use a tape recorder so the team can use the answers later.

Spontaneous Problems for Long-Term Solutions
by Lee Semel

The problems below are intended to be run as spontaneous problems, with each team member giving an answer in turn. Their goal is to help the team come up with ideas they can use for their long-term solution. This is the brainstorming process, which spontaneous is supposed to teach. The responses should come as quick as possible, with no editing. When a team member is stuck, the team is stuck. You should tape-record the responses the team comes up with, so the ideas generated can be used.

  1. Name things you are interested in, and would like to learn more about.
  2. Name things that you can obtain for free. Name things that cost under $1.
  3. Describe ways to attach two things together.
  4. Describe ways things can be made compact.
  5. You are moving things around and setting things up. What can you do to keep an audience entertained while this is going on?
  6. Name things you know how to do, or are good at doing. Can you think of ways to incorporate what you're already good at into your solution? For instance, a student on one of Matt's teams knew how to build geometric structures made of triangles of metal tubing. They found a way to incorporate such a structure into their solution's style performance. You may have your own unique knowledge or unusual skills.
  7. You have (insert object here) only. How many ways could you use it in a presentation? Try this problem with different, common and unusual objects: a cardboard box, a piece of wood, a toy car, a skateboard, a bag of leaves, a computer, 3D glasses, a vacuum cleaner, etc.
  8. Name things that can be worn.
  9. People often wear things that say something about them. For instance, a policeman carries a badge, a fireman wears a red helmet, a businessman has a tie. Think of different kinds of people, and what you'd need to wear in order to pretend to be that kind of person.
  10. Think of ordinary things that can make sounds.
  11. Watch a movie. How do the sounds and music enhance the story? How would the feel of the movie change if the sounds and music were different?
  12. How can you convey a place? Choose a place and think about its essential characteristics. Is it indoors or out? Bright or dim? Noisy or quiet? Are there certain kinds of furniture, or styles of buildings? Is it best depicted with detailed cardboard scenery flats, or with a single piece of furniture? Or a sign? Could it be shown using sound alone? What about smell?
  13. Advertisers often take ordinary products and use creative ways of promoting them. Think of TV commercials for ordinary products, like cola, cereal, sneakers, etc. How do they add pizzazz and excitement to the product? How do they make you remember their product? Can you use this method to add style to your own solution?
  14. Name things that someone who is 40 likes. Name things someone who is 40 dislikes. Name things that someone who is your age likes. How are they different from what older people like?
  15. Name things that can go wrong in a long-term presentation, and ways to prepare for them.
We'd love to hear from you. How are you involved in OM? What do you think of the site? Created by Lee and Matthew Semel