Activity: Random Entry

Try this lateral thinking activity to generate new, provocative approaches to an adaptive challenge you’re facing.


What is lateral thinking?

Lateral thinking is a way of generating outside-the-box ideas. As a method, lateral thinking involves an attempt to put things together in new ways. As opposed to vertical thinking, which moves one forward in sequential steps, lateral thinking involves restructuring, escape, and the provocation of new patterns.

Activity Objective

To generate a high volume of provocative approaches to an adaptive challenge you face.


Download the activity description and accompanying worksheet here.

Print out two copies for each participant.

Download: Random Entry


One individual or large group broken into smaller groups of three.


30 minutes


A facilitator is recommended for groups over 3. The facilitator might be any member of your staff who is comfortable leading the exercise.


  • Step 1: Find a newspaper or magazine. Have someone to randomly point to the text. Pick the noun closest to their finger.
  • Step 2: Have the group call out at least four other nouns related to your original word. Have someone randomly select one of the words. Don’t dwell long on this portion – it’s supposed to be random.
  • Step 3:  Write your adaptive challenge at the top of your worksheet and then write your randomly selected word in the next blank.
  • Step 4: For exactly 10 minutes, each member of the group should silently fill out the remainder of the worksheet with responses to your adaptive challenge that include the randomly selected word as a noun or verb. List as many as possible. Be as wacky and ridiculous as you want. The constraint is that you must use the word and it must be a response to the challenge.
  • Step 5: Repeat Steps 1 through 4 with a completely different noun.


  • What shared themes do you see emerging?
  • What might you make of all these ideas?


In the comments section, we encourage you to share something that you learned or something that surprised you.

Karina Mangu-Ward is the former Director of Strategic Initiatives at EmcArts.