Friday, July 14, 2006

Idea generation: the grid technique

I use this grid technique to generate ideas. With this technique I choose an object and mentally superimpose a grid onto the object. With any/each of the squares of the grid labelled as a "square/area" I create a creative directive:

Create X square/area

where the 'X' will be replaced by an adjective or word with an adjectival function.


For my starting object I'll use an object that already has a grid and individual squares in its structure - the tennis net of a tennis court.

I choose a random word to complete my creative directive: in this example my random word is "blood". My directive reads thus:

Create blood square/area

I can consider that the "square/area" part of the directive applies to one specific square, any square, or all the squares. I then ensure that I complete the challenge and guarantee newness - either by creating a thought experiment (or lateral thinking provocation) or by creating a specific new idea.

Here are my thoughts on blood square:

A square that absorbs any blood that lands on it.

My immediate thought is that if the net was from a top tournament like Wimbledon then somebody could sell that part of the net on eBay. Which leads to the idea: cut up the net after tournaments and auction/sell the sections to raise money for a charity.

More tennis net examples (from a 'live' brainstorm)

Create chemist square/area
First thought: the "+" of the squares could be coloured green to advertise a chemist. Which leads to: the squares could alternatively be circular (sponsorship from a tennis ball manufacturer). Further thoughts: some of the circles could be filled in, with the name of the ball manufacturer on the circles.

Create flow square/area
First thought: all of the squares on the net could constantly move (flow along). Further thoughts: sometimes a shot will hit the net and 'bobble over' to the other side, winning an easy point. Is the chance of that happening the same if the ball hits the other side of the net? Problem to highlight: unfair advantages caused by players being at different ends (I'm aware that players swap ends). Example: the problem of the sun in the eyes of a player at one end. Preliminary thoughts on solution: a small portable blimp to block the sun?

Create beg square/area
First thought: a square on the net with the message "please advertise your product/service here for £10,000". Further thoughts: some value is apparent here -- the message would act as a kind of advertising teaser; due to the unusual nature of the message people would be more likely to notice any advert when it eventually appears. Here I also notice an assumption I've been making: that the net is at a top tournament. What if that message appeared on every tennis net in the country? Stepping to a broader concept level: perhaps an advert could appear on every example of a specific thing throughout the country. For example, marathons have a blue-dash line on the road to show runners the route. Perhaps each of the dashes could be replaced with a photo of an energy drink?

Create molecule square/area
First thought: would it be possible to create a version of tennis played at a molecular level? Table tennis could be considered to be a miniature version of tennis -- how far could the miniaturisation continue? What if: the game of miniature tennis occurs on a 'court' the size of a shoe box? Each participant could play the game via a computer which would control the 'rackets' in the box. Further thoughts: maybe there could be a computer game where participants play their opponent via the internet and the game is played on a type of real tangible court at some location.

A second level grid

If I choose to, I can select any of the squares of my grid and again mentally superimpose a grid onto that. With the tennis net example, I can either visualise my grid on objects only (the strands of the tennis net) or imagine my grid within the space of the square (in effect, some of the resulting squares would be in 'thin air').

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Project: name five hundred uses for a paperclip

I've been meaning to get this project started and blog about it for some time. The project is based on the classic brainstorming/creativity challenge "Name as many uses for a paperclip as possible". The purpose of this project is to find the most productive ways to create and find uses for the paperclip, explore how focus switching and changing of perspective can occur and, of course, find five hundred uses for a paperclip.

Looking at the uses for a paperclip there are the usual offerings : a toothpick, a bookmark, a hair pin, a key ring, a nail cleaner etc. But I also want to look into how focus-switching and changing of perspective can occur. I mean the kind of focus-switching that can lead to these considerations and ideas:

Start a 'Name a million uses for a paperclip' blog
Contact paperclip manufacturers and ask them for inventive uses
Find more uses by Googling "uses for a paperclip"
Ask other bloggers to post about the challenge on their blogs

Feel free to contribute any uses or new perspectives on the problem.