Two-Way Curiosity

This tool gets participants to backward-cast and forward-cast the conditions surrounding an incompletely defined scenario


David Suchet, as Hercule Poirot

Agatha Christie's famous detective

Tool Purpose

  • A) Sometimes, a complex system needs to be grasped quickly, without being told it in a linear, explicit, or didactic way.
  • B) Sometimes, team-players become stuck in deductive reasoning processes that can be narrow, or even negative.
  • This tool encourages either of the two kinds of participant to think more playfully and, therefore, inventively.
  • In B-), with sufficient skill, the facilitator can have a (very) high level of control over this process.

Tool Context

  • This tool highlights and develops the participant's role in a puzzle solving capacity.
  • This tool could feed into and prepare the participant for other tools and approaches.
  • It allows the participant to become curious about a pattern which reveals itself through
  • 1. interaction with other participants, thus developing group identification (see participant-as-observer model).
  • 2. physical and spatial pattern, thus developing a three dimensional understanding of a written structure;
  • 3. gratification at solving a puzzle.

Tool Process

  • In detective novels, when a body falls out of a wardrobe, the reader's curiosity is sparked in two directions:
    • 1. How did the body get there (in the past)?
    • 2. Will the perpetrator be discovered (in the future)?
  • The tool can exist on both the macro and the micro level:
  • i.e. the tool can be used as the theme for a whole event - the event is played out as a curiosity event (the structure of the Pines Calyx workshop was designed in this way) or
  • the tool can be a focus for a part of the event, such as the one described below:

Facilitating the micro tool:

  • The facilitator must know exactly how the narrative moves through time: the past, present and future of the narrative, but the participant must not be aware of this.
  • The directions for this tool must be explained clearly and explicitly so that the participants can feel confident about the procedure and comfortable in the experimental curiosity space.
  • Do not explain the outcomes of the tool but allow the participants only enough information to feed their curiosity.
  • Cut up a piece of writing which is in the structure of a fold, i.e. different motifs in the narrative fold in and out of the structure.
  • Put the participants into small groups of around 3 or 4. Each group has one paragraph or section of the writing.
  • Spatially the groups are given the sections in the order that the text is written i.e the first group gets the first section, the second group the second... and so on. Each group gets one part of a whole which is in a narrative structure.
  • They then present a prĂ©cis of their part and listen to the next part. Their curiosity is hightened by wondering how the piece fits together.
  • As the piece of writing they are given is in the structure of a fold, this fold then magically reveals itself in the room as a physical shape weaving through the groups.
  • This can only be done with certain pieces of writing.

Facilitating the macro tool:

  • Design all event material to unfold in two directions,
  • Do not give all information to the participants,
  • Allow participants to 'grow' their curiosity.

Tool Example

  • Tarrentino opens his film, Reservoir Dogs with a very bloody scene - a man in a car gets shot
  • We know nothing about the situation, but the scene is immensely dramatic
    Because we want to know more, our curiosity is drawn into the imagined past
    but we also want to know what is going to happen next, so our curiosity is pulled into the future.

Suggestions for Development

  • This could be truly fabulous if we could test this in a Metadesign context.
  • This tool could be used in an internal context to strengthen the role of the facilitator as holder of key knowledge and to encourage the design of events that play on inspiring curiosity in players and participants, as well as in an external context to highlight fun and curiosity skills in players and participants.


  • It derives from Julia's observation of the plot structures of thrillers (e.g. Agatha Christy, & Tarrantino's 'Reservoir Dogs').
  • Our idea emerged from an m21 discussion (January 2008) between Mathilda who loves detective novels, and Julia who deals with life as if it were a detective novel.
  • Julia has been using an abductive reasoning model (since 2002) with students at Goldsmiths, University of London.
  • This also may owe something to Rittel's idea of the wicked problem that is important within design.

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