Forcing Connections for Creativity

by: AAT Guest Writer, Amy Climer


I recently had the privilege to be the keynote speaker at the Aviation Security Futures Summit in Washington, D.C. It was a small summit with about 80 people from various professions, but all with an interest in airport security. Attendees included the Department of Homeland Security, TSA, Port Authorities, the ACLU, and airport and airline personnel.

When they first called me they were looking for a lunchtime speaker to focus on innovation. That’s my specialty, so I said yes I could do that. As we continued to talk I suggested rather than just talking about innovation as a theoretical concept we put it into action and get creative together. They loved the idea. The 45 minute keynote grew into a 90 minute facilitated session focused on generating new ideas for the future of aviation security. During the short session they generated hundreds of ideas on how to improve aviation security. The program was a hit and they were excited by the volume of ideas created and with the energy in the room.  

Throughout the session, I introduced several techniques to help them develop new ideas. Different techniques are important because eventually our ideas will dry up and we will be stuck. We will stare blankly at our empty sticky notes or at each other. That’s when we need new inspiration. One of my favorite techniques is called Forced Connections. It is where we make connections with unexpected and unrelated things to help solve the existing problem. My favorite tool for Forced Connections is Climer Cards. 

Here’s how it works:
  1. Spread out your deck of Climer Cards, image side face up so everyone can see them.
  2. Ask the group, “When you look at the images what new ideas do you get for ____________?” Fill in the blank with the problem you are trying to solve. For instance, “When you look at the images what new ideas do you get for how we might hire more qualified staff?” or “When you look at the images what new ideas do you get for how we might make our ropes course universally accessible?”
  3. Group members can share the ideas verbally as they emerge or initially write them down on sticky notes and then share them after everyone has a few. 

    Forced Connections leads to new, unexpected ideas and that is what creativity is all about. Give it a try and let me know what happens. I would love to hear what creative ideas emerged for you and your team.  

    About Dr. Amy Climer

    Amy Climer is a speaker, author, and trainer and teaches teams how to be innovative. She works with a range of clients from summer camp staff to government executives. She hosts The Deliberate Creative, a podcast and blog designed to teach others how to facilitate innovation in teams. She designed Climer Cards, a creativity and teambuilding tool used by thousands to deepen team conversations and generate ideas. She has a PhD in Leadership and Change from Antioch University. Learn more about Amy and her work at or reach out to her with your success stories and questions at 


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