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    The StratEDgy blog is intended to be a thoughtful hub for discussion about strategy and competition in higher education.

A Pipe and a Ping Pong Ball
April 3, 2013 - 8:19pm

Creativity and innovation are in increasing demand as an engine for economic growth and solving major problems, including (preventing and) winning wars, curing disease, feeding a growing population, and finding sources of clean water.   With new technologies, rising costs, uneven access and outdated business models, higher education is in need of a big dose of creative thinking.

A 2010 IBM study of over 1,500 CEOS from 60 countries and 33 industries found these leaders “believe that -- more than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision -- successfully navigating an increasing complex world will require creativity.”  And today’s Wall Street Journal tackled the issue of how to spark creativity.

There are a lot of great exercises to expand your thinking and make different connections, including the Six-Word Memoir I mentioned a few weeks ago.

Here’s another, from one of my favorite books on creativity: Conceptual Blockbusting, by James L. Adams. 

Assume that a steel pipe is imbedded in the concrete floor of a bare room – as shown:




The inside diameter is .06” larger than the diameter of a Ping-Pong ball (1.50”) that is resting gently at the bottom of the pipe.

You are one of a group of six people in the room, along with the following objects:

  • 100’ of clothesline
  • A carpenter’s hammer
  • A chisel
  • A box of Wheaties
  • A file
  • A wire coat hanger
  • A monkey wrench 
  • A light bulb


List as many ways you can think of (in five minutes) to get the ball out of the pipe without damaging the ball, pipe, or floor.

Please post potential solutions below in the comment box and I’ll give a list of these and other potential “answers” in next week’s post.




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