This one I formulated for the workshops I did in Fully Booked back in 2009. The full version of the exercise / game involves a rubber ball and a box of doughnuts. You'll find out in a bit where they would be used.
It's crucial that this is played by at least five (5) people and one (1) genre-master (GM). The five people would form a circle around the genre-master. The job of the genre-master is to come up with a particular topic to start, without any restrictions. E.g. MUSIC.
The first person in the circle (whom the GM could choose randomly), would start the game by saying anything about the topic at hand. For example, if the GM chooses MUSIC, the first person could say anything about music.
1st Person: "Backstreet Boys"2nd Person: "Nick Carter"3rd Person: "Vince Carter"4th Person: "Toronto Raptors"5th Person: "basketball"
Just because the conversation began with music, it doesn't mean that music should be on the only topic at hand. The sequence of words could be related in any which way, deep or mundane. Such in the names of Nick Carter and Vince Carter, they just happened to share the same last name, and that it itself is a connection. So the link from Nick Carter to Vince Carter then to Toronto Raptors is made. Follows the weird logic of a known idiom:
"Love is blind. God is love, therefore God is blind."
1st Person: Kurt Cobain2nd Person: Nirvana3rd Person: Hinduism4th Person: Ghandi5th Person: India
A strange connection between Kurt Cobain and India is made through a bridge of in-between words. Topics could just jump left and right either because of some deep connection or simply the words sounded the same. Either way, a connection is made.
Usually, the number of turns depends on the total players. If there are more than 10 players, it's advised to just do a max of three (3) turns per round. If there are less, it's really up to the GM on how many turns until the particular genre is relatively exhausted by the participants.
You could further add difficulty by adding parameters on the beginning of each turn. For example, for the second round, you could add time or medium as a restriction:
E.g. Television shows in the 1980s.E.g. Black Soul and R&B musicians
In effect, you're limiting the field in which the participants could think of relational words.
Genre > Time Frame > Medium > (etc...)
Of course since this exercise is all about building connections with words, eventually the words could find themselves going out of the parameters, and that's ok as long as a connection is made to the immediate previous word.
The rubber balls acts as a marker on whose turn it is to give a word. If that person doesn't come up with anything within five (5) seconds, he / she eats a doughnut as a penalty.
This exercise gives the opportunity to look at how our brains store memories and logic. Off hand, don't we find it more difficult memorizing words of no relation vs. the ones that have a relationship? The way things are connected is a crucial factor in understanding memory and recalling it. It also let's us subconsciously peruse at the reality we lived in. You get to find out common things with other participants and share the same kind of experiences. From there you could see who would appreciate the eventual concepts you to do. In a sense, you get to test the waters on the feasibility of your concept against the supposed "target market."
Now by being able to recall the connections through the words, we somehow create a mind-map of concepts. Mind-mapping is another advertising technique in creating the reality of a particular vague idea based on a single word. It is how concepts for shoots, ads, designs, etc.. are born. We start to make sense of the reality that a word emanates by the words surrounding it.
There's a tougher version of this, and it's loosely called, "one (1) second concepts". Instead of taking turns, everybody just blurts out words related to the idea, every second, for one (1) minute. And you shouldn't stop; now that's where the hard part comes in.
Again, this is also honed by practice. When we learn how to create a "spider web" of relational words instantaneously, we could contruct its reality. From that reality we could then filter out the one we want to include or exclude in our final concept. Our idea gets more concise along the way.