About this post
Type of technique: Provocation/Thought experiment
Technique in a nutshell: Add texture/colour to thought experiments (in the 'What if?' format) by using adjectival words and phrases.
'What if?' questions
The 'What if?' question - as described in Roger von Oech's book 'A Whack on the Side of the Head' is a useful creativity tool and - like the provocations of de Bono's lateral thinking - can be used to create and examine possibilities - ranging from the mundane to the most fanciful imaginable.
Examples of 'What if?' questions
What if you had to converse in a foreign language for one hour a day?
What if 'arranged friendships' were introduced along with arranged marriages?
What if it became illegal to visit another country?
What if fire was green?
What if the moon were close enough to visit by plane?
What if cutting yourself was always fatal?
Specific challenges and colouring the 'What if?' questions
What if? questions can also be asked when considering a specific creative challenge. At the moment my focus of creativity is the BrainReactions Online Brainstorming Tool. A directive to create a What if? for this challenge could be represented thus:
Create a What if? for the Online Brainstorming Tool
and I could create a What if? accordingly.
However, I can 'colour' this challenge with a word/phrase with an adjectival function. This challenge would take the format:
Create an X What if? for the Online Brainstorming Tool
For the 'X' I choose a random word (or phrase). So, for example, if I choose the random word 'reserve' my directive now reads:
Create a reserve-What if? for the Online Brainstorming Tool
Some possible What if? questions resulting from this directive are:
What if the best challenges were kept in reserve?
What if you could reserve the right to post a challenge at a specified time in the future?
What if a reserve version were created for when the main site has problems?
What if you could email several questions which would be posted at set intervals?
What if reserve team sports stars were invited to contribute?
What if you had to pay to use the site?
Some more examples of colouring What if? questions for the Online Brainstorming Tool
Random word: gallery
Directive: create a gallery-what if? for Online Brainstorming Tool
Gallery-What if? possibles:
What if the challenges could only be posted/answered in pictorial form?
What if there were a gallery with pictures of every contributor?
What if an art gallery were to name their problems/challenges and this was set as a project for one week?
What if the Online Brainstorming Tool were viewable in a gallery?
What if a gallery of 'what if' questions was created?
Random word: weak
Directive: create a weak-what if? for the Online Brainstorming Tool
Weak-What if? possibilities:
What if the Brainstorming Tool stays exactly as it is now, this second?
What if the Tool does something?
What if the Tool features only weak/boring challenges?
What if the Tool highlights the weakest solutions?
What if people only contribute when they are feeling weak?
What if there are no 'what if?' questions?
Random word (a name, actually): James Dean
Directive: Create a James Dean-what if? for the Brainstorming Tool
James Dean-What if? possibilities:
What if a challenge was set to solve the James Dean mystery?
What if a challenge was set to offer alternative explanations of the crash?
What if the tool asked people called 'James Dean' to contribute?
What if problems were solved within the context of a James Dean film?
What if challenges and solutions were printed on porsches?
What if contributors could give themselves nicknames like 'rebel without a cause'?
What if the tool 'died' prematurely/now?