• Amy Burvall

#rawthought: Knock on Paper


Lately I’ve been doing a lot of learning and teaching (in the form of presentations and workshops) on the subject of Creativity.

How does it work?

What can we learn from the creative processes of others?

Why do we need to cultivate it in ourselves and students?

What role will it play in the new economy – in the very future for which we are preparing our children?

And finally – this is the crux- how does one do it?

My approach to creativity is that it is essentially about dot-connecting, remix, and recombination. The sense of freedom to be curious and pursue things that make you wonder – that also plays a big role. For this #rawthought I wanted to explore something that my daughter said fleetingly in the car. It has to do with that old cliché “Think Outside the Box“, which of course Apple repurposed as “Think Different“.


I like to phrase it as “Thinking Outside the Lines” (discussed more in my posts for Learning Bird). While I truly believe that some of the best creative production stems from having creative constraints, I do think that the ability to see beyond the traditional assumptions is a powerful skill. In essence, it’s akin to the difference between colouring beautifully inside the lines of a child’s colouring book  ( a feat which seemed to be always praised by my teachers), to either doodling marginalia, extending the provided image, or scrapping the book altogether and going “rogue DIY” with some blank sheets of paper.


SCENE: Mom and daughter driving inside the car

ME: Well at least that hasn’t happened…KNOCK ON WOOD

GWEN: (looking around the vehicle)…Um..there’s no wood in this car…oh! (grabbing a piece of homework paper)…KNOCK ON PAPER…

“paper’s wood! Just in a different form!”


Ah, I thought – there’s part of the nature of creativity…the ability to envision beyond the expected. A bit like Henry Ford’s anecdote about people wanting only a  “faster horse” not a car (if he would have asked them).


It’s like doing a design thinking activity where the task is to design a better wallet…most people will ideate about wallets (no harm there), but few will boil it down to the sheer essence (currency storage, portability and exchange) and perhaps think of paying via eyeball implant or connected tattoos.


I remember when I was at a Google Teacher Academy event we were asked to build the highest tower with marshmallows and sticks. Most were consumed in the math and physics of it all, but I wondered why don’t we just stack all the chairs on the table top and construct our sculpture using the highest chair as a base? Why is that “cheating” in our culture? Isn’t that how innovation works?

How can we take this concept – this creative skill, really- to practice?

One way is to think in different mediums and forms (like the wood to paper notion):

What would happen if I used a different medium or different tool set to accomplish this?

What if we took something we did in an analogue way and made it “tech” – and vice versa?

How might we juxtapose two seemingly opposite concepts to create something new (like use of anachronism)?

If there were absolutely no constraints, where would our imaginations take us?

What might breaking the glass ceiling of an idea look like?


The next time something seems impossible…I’m going to consider that perhaps it’s there waiting for me to see…just in a different form.

#creativity #gwenburvall #mindset #rawthought #ideation #amyburvall #remix

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