Thursday, March 17, 2005

Cloning Aspects: a simple technique for generating new ideas

I have been using this technique - 'Cloning Aspects' productively for a number of years.

Introduction to Cloning Aspects

When I use this technique I start by choosing a focus (a thing/subject etc), then pick an aspect of the focus subject (usually a tangible component), then create multiple 'clones' of the aspect, and finally - in the creative phase - make each clone unique (often by giving each clone a unique function or purpose).

Examples of Ideas made up using Cloning Aspects technique

The following ideas (all published on the Global Ideas Bank) have been created with the technique:

A section of seats in TV studio audiences auctioned for charity projects

Small charity donations possible when cash point is used

A quick-stop parking meter in each street

Speed cameras to check whether seatbelts worn

A laser projected onto tracks to show record-breaking pace

Olympic flag has sixth ring to represent the Paralympics

Advertising on bank notes to raise money for charities

A webpage for every prescription drug for information and patient discussions

Lottery entry slips - tick box for 10% to charity

Bibliographies in works of fiction to show author's influences

A webpage for each library book

Four stages of Cloning Aspects

There are four stages I apply when Cloning Aspects:

1) Choosing a focus - this should almost certainly be something tangible (and of any size). For example: a shop, a credit card, a bank note, a library, a sports stadium etc

2) Picking an aspect of the focus subject: again this should – ideally - be a tangible component of the focus subject. For example:

With the focus subject a shop, possible aspects could be:

The till
The floor
The front window
The sign
The shelves

3) Multiplying the aspect so that there are a number of clones of the aspect.

I will vary the numbers of clones. So with the focus subject, for example 'a bank' and the aspect 'the cashpoint machine' I may visualise:

a) 10 cashpoint machine clones (or some other quantity)
b) Enough cash machine clones to fill a specified space (eg: a mile of cash machines)
c) An infinite row of cash machines

I don’t worry about impossibilities or impracticalities: as I visualise a mile of cash machines I don't counter this with objections such as 'the rent would be extra' or 'that would form an obstacle' etc.

(Anyone familiar with the writings of de Bono will recognise how the attitude needed when visualising the clones is similar to that required when using the lateral thinking provocations - an attitude of 'deferring judgement' can be helpful)

Sometimes I will imagine all the clones occupying the same space as the original aspect. This is almost as though the clones are 'superimposed' over the original aspect. (I sometimes refer to this as 'tardis space'!)

Those who have used Mind maps will know Tony Buzan's rule that "Mind maps expand to fill the space available". When Cloning Aspects, it is almost as though the ideas create themselves to fill the clones available. The technique does seem to expand the mind and open it to possibilities. Sometimes I get ideas from cloning the aspects before I have even attempted to create anything new.

4) Creating new ideas

At this stage I consider the clones and think about how each could have its own individual function or purpose (or even the usual purpose but with a slight nuance). Sometimes I will 'group' the clones, so that out of a row of a hundred clone cash machines I will visualise a group of five and consider how they could all have a unique function or purpose. I use a random word to act as a qualifier for the clone. So, for example, in the case of the cash machine I could say:

Clone five is a 'charity clone'

which could suggest that that particular cash machine could be involved in some form of charity donation or project. This led to this idea:

Small charity donations possible when cash point is used

The formation of random words

I use a fairly idiosyncratic method to finding random words. Others may find this method useful.

I use a pangram such as:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dogs

and I select two random letters. Then I try to think of a selection of words 'triggered' by the two letters. At first I will try to think of the shortest words I can, then proceed to words with two syllables or more.

For example, the two letters 'r' and 'c' could give:

Rock, Rack, Rook, Race
Reckon, Raccoon, Rocket, Rocker, Recent, Reclaim,
Recalcitrant, Reckoning, Rococo etc

Then I pick one to use as the qualifier and precede the clone with that word:

Reckoning-cash machine

and use that as a trigger for new ideas, as with random word stimulation.

Cloning Space Variation

The cloning space variation has been a very productive way of using the technique. To clone space I simply choose an object (such as a bank note) and multiply a chosen blank space to form clone blank-spaces. (This has resulted in a visualised bank note of about two metres in length!) Then I create a function/purpose for each space.

The cloning space variation led to this idea:

Advertising on bank notes to raise money for charities

Examples of ideas and how Cloning Aspects was used to create them

Lottery entry slips - tick box for 10% to charity

With this idea I cloned space so that the (visualised) lottery ticket was about a metre long. Then I considered how each individual centimetre of that metre could be used. I chose a random word and imagined how that word could be a heading for each centimetre and how that centimetre would have a function that reflected that word. Eventually this led to the idea of having a tick box for ten-percent of winnings to charity.

A quick-stop parking meter in each street

With this I visualised a street and picked the parking meters as the aspect. Then I imagined hundreds of parking meters and considered the different functions they could have. The qualifying random word "speed" led to this idea.

A laser projected onto running tracks to show record-breaking pace

With this I visualised an athletics running track with its white lines used to separate the runners. I picked a single white line as the aspect and visualised 100 clones of the line. The qualifier 'laser' led to the idea. (Since the idea was published on the Global Ideas Bank the TV coverage of the 2004 Olympics superimposed a line onto the swimming pool events to show record pace, and recently I saw an athletics meeting where a sequence of lights lined the track to show record pace)

Bibliographies in works of fiction to show author's influences


A webpage for each library book

Both ideas resulted from cloning the unused blank page (often at the end of many books) and considering a function for each of these pages.

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