Monday, November 28, 2005

Creativity technique: naming/listing people

About this post

Technique in a nutshell: when you want to create a list of people, colour/texture the action of naming by using adjectival phrases or words.

Example: Name a party person


It can help to generate a list of disparate people to help with creativity; considering the fantasy input of others - both real people and fictional people - can provide interesting perspectives on creative effort or problem solving. The lists can also be used to help kick-start creativity at the blank page stage.

I can start out with a simple directive such as:

Name a person

And name a few people. But to add colour to the naming I can select a random word (from a dictionary, directed free association results or wordcount.org) and use it adjectivally. With a random word such as 'code' I get the directive:

Name a code person

and I can name as many people as possible - perhaps working to a quota of five or any other number:

1) Alan Turing
2) Dan Brown
3) Mona Lisa (Mona Lisa is an anagram of 'I also man' - some consider that the Mona Lisa is a depiction of Leonardo da Vinci as a woman)
4) Samuel Morse
5) Samuel Pepys

I can opt to use two adjectival words instead of one to further colour the naming (and add extra challenge!). So with the random words 'eye' and 'death' I create the directive:

Name an eye death person

and list five people. NB: I always try to complete five namings, even if some of them are a bit of a cheat or a slight interpretation on the meaning of the adjectival words.

1) King Harold
2) Peter Cook
3) Peter Falk
4) The Grim Reaper (A cheat: he eyes dead people)
5) Evil Knievel

Using the lists

Once I have built up a sizeable list of people I can use it for creative thinking.

If I am at the blank-page stage wondering 'what can I create?' then the following question can kick-start my thinking:

What would X invent?

and I consider what any person from the list would invent. Perhaps:

King Harold: a suit of armour to protect the eyes
Alan Turing: ways for a computer to improve its performance in the Turing Test.
Peter Falk: clever tricks that Columbo can use to catch out killers

I can also track (or guess-track) a person throughout their life and ask the question:

What did X invent/create throughout their life?

and consider any ideas they may have created throughout the various stages of their life.

1 comment:

Design Crux said...

In design thinking we use the words persona and scenario. My idea was to relate this design technique to creativity. It becomes much more interesting when you get into the shoes of customers and/or users.