exploring the edges: a better way to brainstorm (best of the blog)

These two holiday weeks, I had been providing a look back at the “best of the blog” from 2009 – until I was wonderfully interrupted with a surprise trip to the Urbana conference. But I wanted to return to some “best” today and tomorrow, and resume posting brand-new stuff on Sunday! (You can see all the “Best of the Blog” posts here.)

One of the coolest ideas I got to introduce this year was an adaptation of Seth Godin’s idea called “edgecraft.” This method truly provides a better way to brainstorm, an easy way for anybody to jump-start their creativity (regardless of their natural talent in that area).

The adapted idea, which I tend to call “exploring the edges,” is perfect for any college minister or college ministry leadership team that wants new ideas, whether they’re looking for simple “tweaks” to present activities or groundbreaking new endeavors. Exploring the edges can catalyze creativity more easily and more effectively than any method I know.

Several times this year, I highlighted this theme – not only to introduce it, but also to illustrate its use in practice. So below you’ll find the first post – briefly describing the process of Exploring the Edges – followed by links to four posts where you can see the process fleshed out. Enjoy!


The truth is, our usual approach to “brainstorming” doesn’t always work very well. The classic picture is of a group of leaders, sitting around a room, throwing out random ideas and hoping something will stick. While useful ideas are sometimes produced, I want to offer a method to produce ideas in a bit more purposeful way. In the seminar, I called it “exploring the edges.”

This method pretty much comes directly from Seth Godin, who describes it as “edgecraft.” As I’ve written before, I encourage you to read his book Free Prize Inside, my personal favorite Godin book for application to campus ministry.

As we look at individual elements – a weekly worship time, our use of student leaders, the web site, etc. – we explore various possibilities along the “edges.” That means thinking new thoughts about the who of this activity, the what, the where, the when, and even the why.

So for each of those Ws, we might ask questions like…

What if this who, what, etc., increased (involved more, got bigger, went further, was added to)?

What if this part decreased (involved less, got smaller, stayed closer, was subtracted from)?

What would be the craziest thing we could do with this part?

When we get to asking these questions (and more) for the who, what, where, when, and why of an activity, our brainstorms get channeled into some pretty useful (and creative) new ideas.

This is kind of tricky to explain, but play around with it. It gets a lot clearer when we use it with specific elements in our college ministries.


Four specific applications of this method:

  1. Exploring the Edges, Applied: Using this method to tweak the standard campus ministry mission trip
  2. Exploring the Edges of “The Map-bringers”: Applying this method to a first-week-of-school idea to make it even more impactful
  3. College Ministry Dinner for 10: Applying this method to a community-building idea
  4. Explore the Edges of Your Year-to-Come: Applying this method to simply tweaking your standard activities in the upcoming year / semester / quarter


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