In his book The Power of Innovation, Min Basadur discusses problem finding and improving the skill of problem finding: "You can develop your ability to sense problems and to seek out opportunities just as you can hone any other skill".
He provides a list of 'prompter questions' used to trigger the process of finding problems. There are three categories: Sensing the present, Anticipating the future, and Personal problem finding.
Sensing the present: What are your most difficult people problems? What is likely to cause your next crisis?
Anticipating the future: What information would simplify your job? What might cause your valued employees to leave?
Personal problem finding: What changes do you feel you need to make? What makes you worry?
What I would like to do is devise strategies that help to create such prompter questions like the ones above. I would guess there are two types of people: those who prefer the creative challenge of creating a comprehensive list of prompter questions from scratch, and those that would prefer to use a ready-made list. I'm sure it's possible that strategies could create an exhaustive list and the strategies could be used by others to add to the list. Maybe a blog or website of prompter questions could be created?
Far Side style cartoons
For many years I've been trying to work out systematic techniques to create cartoons - particularly those in the style of Gary Larson's Far Side. For a while I tried to work out techniques for creating a starting context - that is, the scenario that occurs before anything funny happens. What I've considered lately is that these scenarios could be created quickly by drawing a giant image that represents all the major parts - characters, places, key items, events - of a movie. Many of the Far Side cartoons have themes that could easily be found within movies.
I could select any area of the giant image and that would provide a context. Then I would apply double representation: I would consider the activities of that image in both image form and as a real life event. So, for example, if there were a dog in an image I could apply some creative techniques to change the image. I could depict a giant weight on a dog's head, for example. Then, I would switch to the real-life representation and consider the consequences of a dog actually having a weight on its head in real life. I would continue switching between both representations, making small changes with creativity tools. Gradually the contents of the image would develop and evolve and hopefully something interesting (or even funny) would eventually result.