101 Activities for Teaching Creativity and Problem Solving.Copyright © 2005 by John Wiley &
Sons, Inc. Reproduced by permission of Pfeiffer, an Imprint of Wiley. http://www.pfeiffer.com
7. Mental Breakdown
“Chunking,” in the world of information theory, has nothing to do with Chinese food. It
has everything to do with managing information. Basically, chunking refers to the prac-
tice of breaking down information into smaller pieces, or chunks.
We define problems, after all, by how much information we have about them. The
more information we have, the more structured the problem is. And the more structured
a problem is, the easier it is to solve. Thus, the better we are at managing information, the
better we should be at solving problems. Unfortunately, it’s not always quite that simple.
If we have trouble solving problems, we might assume we aren’t creative, knowledge-
able, or motivated enough. Frequently, however, the major difficulty is perceived infor-
mation overload. The information itself then becomes another problem on top of the
Information scientists suggest dividing information into smaller, more manageable
chunks to avoid overload. Like a computer, the human mind can process only a limited
number of information bits at one time (some say the mind can process an average of
seven bits simultaneously). Given this limitation, it’s no wonder we can’t resolve large,
complex problems without making some adjustments.
One way to compensate for our techno-biological deficiencies is to list subproblems
(or related problem components) and work on them in order of priority. The result is a
series of related, yet smaller and more manageable, problems. Frequently, attacking a
problem in this manner can lead to even more creative perspectives.
- To help participants generate as many creative ideas as possible
- To help participants learn how to use the activities to generate ideas
Small groups of four to seven people each.
Materials, Supplies, and Equipment
- For each group: markers, two flip charts, and masking tape for posting flip-chart
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