66 Write a Haiku to Define Challenges…

Creative Gorilla#66

A Haiku is a great way to consider and refine a challenge …

 “Waterfall roaring –
though the sparrow sings unheard,
still he keeps singing”

James Kirkup ~ English poet

Write a HAIKU to define challenges

“Spot the sparrow”

Do you need to make a concise statement of a situation to help with challenge definition…?

My wife gave me a beautiful a book of meditations called The Bridge of Stars, beautiful because the visual design and photographs are as much part of the book as the poetry. Reading the Haikus in the book reminded me that this Japanese poetry form is not just a great method of writing poetry but also a great creative technique when you want to define a challenge in a succinct way.

I first learned about the Haiku on a creative writing class. It is a form of poetry in which you use 17 syllables in three lines, five – seven – five. Strictly speaking it was not invented until the 1890’s, adapted from the Hokku, the starting verse of much longer poems. A hundred years later I thought it would be a great way to have people redefine their challenge definition and so I experimented in my Open University residential courses. It worked very well.


I invited the students to consider their challenge situation (e.g. How can I motivate my team?) and reduce it down to 17 syllables. The power lies in the brevity and in the discipline of achieving the syllable structure. Brevity provides clarity and having to find words to match the number of syllables helps to give a subtly different perspective on your situation.

As an example, I once had a manipulative boss who wound me up regularly. I sat down and wrote my frustrations on a piece of paper (what I call the Pensieve technique, devised by Professor A Dumbledore, Hogwarts  – let me know if you would like a description of this) and then summarised it with a Haiku:

My mind is my own

I will share it with someone

That one is not you…

Some people find the technique powerful, some feel better for doing it and others find it irritating! What it does do is make you think more flexibly. What might it do for you?


Consider the Haiku by James Kirkup. What might it say about the individual and organisations?

Have you got a challenging situation? Write a Haiku that summarises it. If you feel you can share it, send it to me.


To Close

On reviewing the draft of this article, my wife mentioned that our son, aged 9, had recently written a Haiku for his homework. Always willing to take advantage of coincidence, I will let him close this week:

 Summer has arrived

Melting in the humid heat

Butterflies take wing

Have a poetic week.…

John Brooker I Facilitate, Innovate, Transform.

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