Gift ideas to celebrate creative thinking
July 26, 2013 10:15 AM   Subscribe

My boss asked me to purchase gifts that celebrate "out-of-the-box" thinking. His suggestions were "a brass sculpture" or "a mousepad." I thought MeFi could do better.

In the coming months, my office will host a number of meetings where we encourage 10-15 participants to think of creative solutions to complex problems. We'd like to reward participants with a fun gift (in addition to their honorarium) that emphasizes creativity and/or collaboration. Participants have relatively diverse backgrounds, but most will be middle-class professional types. Our budget is roughly $25 per person. We're in the US, and overseas shipping is discouraged.

Any suggestions?

[Bonus points: This is probably a separate question, but ideas for cool games/activities/videos that stimulate creative thinking are also welcome.]
posted by MetalFingerz to Shopping (34 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Metal puzzles, maybe?
posted by kagredon at 10:17 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

A mousepad seems sort of awful to me (looks down at trackpad). It seems like you'd want something creative to celebrate creativity. Maybe a Lego set or something like that.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:18 AM on July 26, 2013 [11 favorites]

The Ball of Whacks purports to stimulate creativity and even comes with a 96 page book on the subject. At $30 it is a little over your limit and would appeal more to geeks than to business types most likely. But, it is cooler than a mousepad, to be sure.
posted by elmay at 10:18 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

With that budget I'd say GIFT CARD. A Thing is just some other crap that I put on my desk and it sits there forever.

Here's a pretty comprehensive list of team-building activities, many of which inspire out of the box and collaborative thinking.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:20 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

To specifically celebrate out of the box thinking: a jack-in-the-box!
posted by musofire at 10:22 AM on July 26, 2013

Seconding Ruthless Bunny.

I'm hugely into doing gifts rather than thing gifts. Most people have enough Things.

My favourite versions of this are spa days, weird days out (for instance if you could find this local to you, you'd be golden with me), and trips to cool stuff like the theatre etc.

Aaaaaand... if you do this, you can ask people to write a little creative report about how it went when they did the Cool Thing they had the voucher for :)
posted by greenish at 10:27 AM on July 26, 2013

Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store
posted by sweetkid at 10:28 AM on July 26, 2013

I was going to suggest a deck of Oblique Strategies cards, but they're a little out of your price range.

They reminded me, however, of a deck of goofball fortune-telling cards a friend of mine has. Not tarot. She lays them out like tarot cards, however, and does readings for people. The whole point is that the cards didn't have any assigned meaning, so it's on the reader to make something up.
posted by adamrice at 10:28 AM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree that a lot of stuff isn't necessarily my favorite thing to receive, but I would rather have these fun collaborative/problem-solving/puzzle type things than a mousepad (??):

Chalkboard mugs
Invisible playing cards
Poseable figure (more appropriate if this is in an artistic field at all)
Multi-tool (or a Leatherman)
Screwdriver set
All the puzzles you could ever want (some are quite attractive)
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:31 AM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

A small Lego set, Sugru hacking putty, a small metal or wooden puzzle, or something like the now-discontinued Buckyballs--Zen magnets appear to be a decent replacement.
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:31 AM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have a butterfly in a jar on my desk and every. single. person (adults and children, men, women, every damn person) who comes into my office LOVES it and I know of three people who have bought one or more for themselves or family.

Bonus: There are a lot of fun, geeky, far out gifts on that site.
posted by janey47 at 10:31 AM on July 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

[Bonus points: This is probably a separate question, but ideas for cool games/activities/videos that stimulate creative thinking are also welcome.]

This is my go-to resource.

As for the gift, what if you were to give participants an item whose use isn't obvious or prescriptive? For example: everyone gets a "goodie bag" (gallon ziploc). The bag could include items like index cards, sharpies, dice, "voting dots," sand timers, poker chips, pawn tokens, or number tiles. If you buy these in bulk on Amazon, it should easily fall within your price range. You could include suggestions for what to do with the items or leave it entirely open.
posted by duffell at 10:34 AM on July 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

A day or even just an afternoon off would probably go over better than a gift card.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:34 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Based on what has been popular at my office's white elephant exchange:


And yeah, giftcards or extra days of PTO.
posted by tinymegalo at 10:40 AM on July 26, 2013

By games do you mean game games or like group icebreaker type games? First thought: Story Cubes.
posted by custardfairy at 10:44 AM on July 26, 2013

a day off is going to cost the company a lot more than $25 unless it's a Bangladeshi sweat shop. With ideas like a mouse pad it's no wonder your boss needs to have his underlings do his job for him. Since you are willing to put in the work why not identify a personal gift under $25 that would be special to each and every member of the group and find a moment in each session where they have contributed to hand them the gift. I can't stand impersonal gifts. I remember a manager handing me a $25 Walmart gift card for Christmas and considered it an insult from someone who should have known I never have and never will set foot in a Walmart. I no longer work for the company.
posted by any major dude at 10:47 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thinking Putty. The magnetic is awesome, but I imagine the heat-sensitive or glow-in-the-dark is pretty great, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:49 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just browsing Think Geek: Credit Card lightbulb. Low cost, but representative of your premise.
posted by vignettist at 10:50 AM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have been fascinated by dynamos and generators since before I could read, and also by anything that gives off light.

So, considering the connotations of power and new light in the realm of ideas, how about a shake light?
posted by jamjam at 10:55 AM on July 26, 2013

Bees? Or maybe a sextant.

More seriously, my suggestion is to have a theme. You're a group of people in a workplace setting, and presumably part of the sentiment your office hopes to create is team-building. So if you go with gift cards, make them all the same gift cards, or at least the same type (restaurants?). Look for a group of ten or fifteen gifts, rather than ten or fifteen separate gifts.
posted by cribcage at 11:16 AM on July 26, 2013

Bic makes a 36-color marker set that you can pick up at staples for around 10-15$...useful around the office whether you get 'creative' with it or not...sharpie makes a set as well, but the bic one has it's own case.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:22 AM on July 26, 2013

Thanks everyone for the wonderful suggestions - I think you all beat mouse pad!

One note: these people do not work for our company, and so we don't have the option of PTO. They also are flying in to our office from all over the country, making gift cards a little bit harder if it's not for an online store.
posted by MetalFingerz at 11:39 AM on July 26, 2013

I'm in the 'fewer things' camp, but if you are really giving stuff, the things I really liked are Thinking Putty, Origami Sticky Notes, sugru Hacking Putty, magnet balls or cubes, the goodie bag, a good LED flashlight, (headlamp - "Use Your Head"), interesting colored whiteboard markers, Amazon gift card, small 1st aid kit, USB-chargeable flashlight, spare USB chargers - with batteries, or for wall plug or car lighter.
posted by theora55 at 11:46 AM on July 26, 2013

But for the flying in part, I'd suggest Swiss Army Knives with your company's logo on them. I expect most folks are doing the just carry ons if possible.

Although... If you tell them that anyone sending you a picture of themselves in their home airport with said knife gets a 100$ Amazon gift card, that certainly might promote some out of the box thinking (also, jail).
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:52 AM on July 26, 2013

A copy of Wreck This Journal?
posted by emkelley at 11:58 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

8 ¼ x 12 ½ Rhodia Dot Pads are really swell. One in orange, one in black?
posted by oceanjesse at 12:03 PM on July 26, 2013

I hate tchotchkes. I love gifts. I'd take a $25 Amazon gift card over anything else; and as a bonus, this is logistically simple.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:18 PM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Magnetic poetry?
posted by sianifach at 12:29 PM on July 26, 2013

Please, no more junk. People have enough clutter as it is.

Here's an idea: find 2-5 non-profit organizations that cover a range of community needs, possibly related to your business or the participants'. Ideas include educational/tutoring organizations, animal causes, drug treatment/halfway house/prisoner outreach, all kinds of stuff (no politics, except _maybe_ a non-partisan voter education effort).

Make a container or envelope or something representing each organization (someone will *love* making these before the event if they have time). Give each person a (pretty) token representing a $25 donation. Let them choose which organization they'd like to get the token/donation, and have them physically do something (put the token in a container) to make the donation happen.

After the event, the company writes a check to each organization, and the participants get the experience of contributing in a meaningful way (studies have shown that this makes people a lot happier than getting "stuff", believe it or not), without even having to spend any of their own money.

Everyone gets to feel good, and they receive a gift that's both memorable and easy to store. Nothing gets thrown in a landfill, no plastic is consumed, and, believe it or not, this will be a better gift than any little tchotchke.

Also: no box.
posted by amtho at 12:40 PM on July 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Nthing the idea for small, high-quality flashlights. If people already have one, having another is handy, it's hard not to get good use out of 'em at some point and they last a long time.
posted by ambient2 at 1:33 PM on July 26, 2013

I get great ideas in the shower, and I think that's a well-established space for developing great ideas. So my vote is for a waterproof notebook and pen, so that people can write down their great ideas anywhere - up to and including the shower.
posted by k8lin at 2:27 PM on July 26, 2013

I like amtho's idea, or to put another twist on it, give them each $25 cash as they leave and ask them to perforrm a random act of kindness with it on the way home and report back on what they did. Then circulate a summary.
posted by lakeroon at 3:29 PM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

My office gives out a bunch of logo stuff as prizes, but it's better than mugs and pens. There are black hoodie jackets, softsided tool carrying box, 6-pack cooler (soft or hard-sided), backpack, messenger bag, some other casual jackets, sweatshirts, golf/polo shirts, T-shirts. All the clothing items are good quality, not that thin cheap stuff.

My least favorite is the insulated travel mug, but I put it out on the Freebie table and someone picked it up.
posted by CathyG at 5:36 PM on July 26, 2013

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