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Taylor Halverson, October 21, 2014

As a freshman, I learned some important principles of creativity and innovation while planning an unlikely-themed midwinter dance.

Photo by Frank Bienewald

When I was an undergraduate at BYU, I served as the John Hall President, a dorm in the Helaman Halls student housing complex (and in case anyone is wondering, it was a guy’s dorm back then). The Helaman Halls leadership committee, which consisted of all of the dorm presidents, worked to establish activities and opportunities for students that would be memorable and meaningful. Dances typically were successful activities. During our January meeting as we discussed a dance for February we sought to find an appropriate theme for the dance. Of course, Valentine’s Day seemed like a perfect context for providing a relevant dance theme. However, our dance was scheduled for a week before Valentine’s Day. Our group thought it was a bit silly to celebrate Valentine’s that far in advance (sure, Christmas parties throughout Christmas, but Valentine’s parties for two or three weeks in advance? We didn’t think so).

Then someone suggested we do a Groundhog Day theme. That sounded like an unexpected and fun theme to a bunch of freshman planners. But again, the dance would be a week later than Groundhog Day. Now what? We couldn’t do a dance on the day of romance and our creative ideas to do a Groundhog Day theme had likewise been compromised by the calendar.

We were all stumped, looking at each other. The puzzled silence was uncharacteristic of our lively group.

Then someone asked one of the great questions of creativity: “What if?” “What if we combined themes?” Another person exclaimed in the affirmative, “Yeah!” Soon another person, building on the new momentum of a creative moment, added “Groundhogs and Valentines.” The conversation continued with energy and buzz until we landed on this: “Shadows of Young Ground Hogs Falling in Love!” It was brilliant, absolutely cheesy, and only relevant to freshman at BYU. I can’t imagine this idea gaining traction anywhere else! But for an audience of BYU freshman looking forward to a dance in the doldrums of winter, this was probably the most unexpected and yet welcomed theme possible. The activity was a smashing success. There were even a few girls who actually said yes when I asked them to dance.

The principles I learned from those fun moments of creativity and planning are these:

  • Involve a diverse group of people
  • Trust one another
  • Seek playfulness
  • Listen to others
  • Be willing to take risks doing something new and unexpected

When have your creative moments taken an unexpected turn?