James Smart

A Martian Sends a Postcard Home

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15 +1 + Medium

Use Craig Raine's poem A Martian Sends a Postcard Home to spur creative thinking and encourage perspective shifting in a group. After a warm-up, you can then use this martian perspective to describe your product or service and gain new insights and ideas.

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Goal

Encourage creative thinking by using the perspective of a martian to write a short poem about an everyday object from a new point of view. 

Attachments

Materials

    Instructions

    Before you begin, you'll want to find an online version of this poem, or print out the attached PDF. For live groups, it's nice to have a copy each where possible. You'll also find a cheat sheet for what the objects are in the attached PDF version of the poem. 

    The first six steps of this method can be used as a standalone creative exercise or energizer, then you can add the additional steps if you want to go deeper and bring some new perspectives to a brainstorming or problem-solving session.

    1. Start by having the group read the attached poem A Martian Sends a Postcard Home by Craig Raine. You can have them read a section each, or follow along while you read the piece aloud.

      Let the group know that this poem features many examples of defamiliarization - where the poet makes the ordinary seem unfamiliar and new by presenting it from a new perspective. You might encourage them to try and figure out what objects are being referenced as you go.

    2. After reading, ask the group what they liked (or disliked!) about the poem and share their ideas about what the poem means to get some voices in the room.  

    3. Next, you'll ask the group to identify some of the objects that were described. Solicit ideas for what some of the objects are and they share from the attached sheet. For example:
      1. "Model T is a room with the lock inside –

        a key is turned to free the world

        for movement, so quick there is a film

        to watch for anything missed." is a car! Note how the poem uses an unfamiliar perspective to make everyday things such as starting a car or looking in the rearview mirror seem new again!

    4. Now, we'll give the group the opportunity to write their own martian poem! Ask everyone to choose an object they can see from where they are or that they use every day. 
      1. The challenge is to write a short poem (even one or two paragraphs is fine!) in the style of Craig Raine's poem. They will describe the object from the perspective of a martian and try not to make it obvious what the object is. 
      2. Have everyone choose an object on their desk that they use all the time.
      3. Set a timer for 10 minutes and have everyone write their poem

    5. Once the timer is up, have everyone take turns to share their poem and have the rest of the group try and guess what the object they are describing is! We also recommend collecting the poems together and puting them on a wall, a shared Notion page or Mural board. It's a lovely way to remember this creative session and create an artifact of your team's creativity!

    6. [OPTIONAL] Now your group is creatively warmed up, you can go further! If you're working to redefine or ideate on your service or organization, you can then use this next optional step to encourage looking at your core topic from a new perspective. 
      1. Using all you've learned, ask the group to describe your app, service or organization from the perspective of a martian encountering it for the first time!
      2. Set the timer for 10 minutes and have everyone write this as a short poem.

    7. [OPTIONAL] Once your timer is up, ask the group to share again, but then make notes of things that stand out and what common themes emerge. Collect any ideas and comments as this will form inform later ideation.

    8. [OPTIONAL] Finally, ask the group to brainstorm around a central problem statement using the perspective and ideas they've come up with as a starting point. Some example problem statements include:
      1. How would we sell our product or service to a martian?
      2. How could we explain our product or service so that a martian would understand? 
      3. How would a martian approach solving our core problem? 


    Background

    The poem this exercise uses is A Martian Sends a Postcard Home by Craig Raine. Martian poetry - where poets defamiliarise the every day and present it in a new way - has since become a popular form that is worth further exploration if you're interested! 

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