Wed, May 18, 2022

Facilitating Mind Bending Paper Clip Philosophy

Learning can be an experience that turns, twists and bends you out of shape. The process can even make you question  your ability to ‘keep it together’ – a basic paper clip expectation.

Sometimes we must be reminded of the endless possibilities that exist for us when we are able to change direction and bend another way.

The ‘100 Uses for a Paper clip‘ exercise

Most people only know the ‘100 uses‘ as a popular creativity activity encouraging you to ‘think out the box’ and come up with as many functions as possible (like 100!) for a paper clip, or a brick or a circle!

Participants are usually given a few minutes to try to come up with 100 uses. Some people stop at around 20 because they don’t feel like pushing themselves harder.

Creativity only flows once you initiate the energy.

Others are amazed that they have ideas, then become curious about how many more they could have. So they push themselves to generate more and more radical, funny, possible ideas.

Those who get past 50 start to realise that they have fallen into ‘idea patterns’ and that they need to find ‘fresh branches’ to hit the 100 mark.


  • scratch name on to glass
  • scratch number on to clay
  • scratch a car etc.

The understanding that one can’t keep using similar functions as a sign of diversity and creativity will often introduce a fresh concept.

When we can think like this normally, around everyday events, we will be able to generate a range of solutions and possibilities for ourselves forever. No one can take your brain power away – only you can limit it.

100 Uses for Paper Clips is also a useful way to get learners to reflect upon how they solve and resolve situations in life and at work.

We often fall into patterns of reactions as opposed to trying fresh approaches. Have you ever felt as if you keep trying to do stuff but the same problems always hold you back?

Do you repeatedly come up against similar or the same obstacles or dead ends?

It means you need to try something different – such as the way you think!

You can rewire your brain by challenging it to think in ways it didn’t previously.

This exercise can show that you are more creative than you thought, that you can push your boundaries and that you can be fearless.

This is not a test to see how many real, rational and believable suggestions you can come up with – it really can be about being silly, adventurous, creative and daring.

How to do the 100 Uses for a Paper clip Test

I’ve applied the activity as an individual, pair or team experience. Below are a few facilitation tips.

What you Need

Paper and pen, paper clip to play with for inspiration, 15 minutes and imagination.

Your Mission

Bend, twist or straighten….List at least 25 great ideas promoting the paper clip’s range of diverse uses within 5 minutes.

Share, Collaborate and Strengthen

Working in teams of three or five, discuss the ideas and work together to flesh out the best and agree on the most outrageous ones.  Think of this as representing how you discuss problems with friends, family or colleagues.

Do you have a range of potential solutions to put forward or do you simply become trapped in the problem and the challenges?

Once I can see that teams have released their creative mojo, I ask them the following:

Can you create a campaign using the Paper Clip as the symbol?

  • What if it was a weapon, or a peace symbol?
  • What world record could it break if it was a champion?
  • What if the paper clip was a metaphor?
  • What if it had an enemy?
  • What if the paperclip was a super hero?

Here are a few alternative uses for paper clips 🙂

  1. Dreadlock detangler for when you change your mind
  2. Hair accessory for sputnik styles
  3. Straighten then stick many into a lump of prestik and make a porcupine for your desk
  4. Clean grooves in jewellery
  5. Clean cats nails
  6. Scratch annoying black dirt away on oven dishes
  7. Loop together to make a necklace, bangle or belt
  8. Bend to make earrings or eyebrow rings
  9. Gradually fray the rope of your rock climbing enemy
  10. Suspend sheet in trees to make a canopy
  11. Hold a small creeping vine in place

You are better than this paper clip. You are durable, you are flexible, you can achieve many different things if you focus on how creative you truly are.

Check out these posts about paper clips:

What People do when they find a Paper Clip

100 Uses for PAPER CLIPS

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