Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Optician Project: Listing information with action-units

FreeFoto.comI'm an optician and I'm about to do a project: I'll leave my premises to put advertising leaflets on the windscreens of local cars. I have hired a temp to help me distribute the leaflets. We have fifty leaflets each to distribute.


The action-unit technique can be used to make a sizeable (exhaustive) list of information relating to a challenge. To use action-units I select two pieces of information from a challenge and list interactions (by actions) between the two.

Example of action-units applied to the Optician's Project

First of all I want to choose two pieces of information. I choose: me (as optician) and leaflets. My template for the action-unit looks thus:


Listing actions

At the next stage I want to start listing some actions that the optician carries out on the leaflets. At first I go for obvious choices:


Prompting further responses

There are two strategies I can use to help me list further actions: A to Z, and listing verbs.

A to Z

With the A to Z strategy I simply write the alphabet in a column and try to think of an action or actions (between the optician and leaflets) for each letter:



________________A: amends, alters
________________B: benefits (from), believes in
________________C: creates, carries
________________D: distributes, designs
________________E: edits
________________F: favours
________________G: gathers
________________H: handles, holds
________________I: initiates, inspects
________________J: joins (together)
________________K: keeps
________________L: likes
________________M: makes, manages
________________N: needs, notes
________________O: orders
________________P: proof-reads
________________Q: quantifies
________________R: reads, relishes
________________S: shares
________________T: transports
________________U: understands
________________V: values
________________W: waits (for), walks (with)
________________X: xeroxes (copies)
________________Y: yields
________________Z: zones

Listing verbs

With the listing verbs strategy I first make a list of verbs (See: How to quickly create a list of verbs). At that point I have two choices: I can either read through my list of verbs and select verbs that fit the challenge, or interpret the verbs to make them relevant.

Example of interpreted verbs:

___________yodels = sings the praises of
___________destroys = deletes drafts (at planning stage)
___________models = shows final draft to receptionist for feedback

Reversing the action-unit

I can also opt to reverse the action-unit; in this case, leaflet becomes the object and optician receives the action:

__________________grab (his interest)

Switching focus

At any point of the action-unit listing I can switch focus: I do this by deleting one piece of information (in the action-unit) and considering information that could have been used as an alternative to that piece of information.



I delete optician to give:

(__________ ___ _____gathers_____________Leaflets)

and then list possible alternatives:

(__________ ___ _____gathers_____________Leaflets)
__car owners
__car owner's family
__car owner's friends
__passer-by (may take from car)


Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Optician Project: Selecting information and stepping up the concept level

FreeFoto.comI'm an optician and I'm about to do a project: I'll leave my premises to put advertising leaflets on the windscreens of local cars. I have hired a temp to help me distribute the leaflets. We have fifty leaflets each to distribute.


Suppose I am (creative) thinking about the distribution project above and I turn my attention to: the leaflets (as listed in the Listing key information with category-triggers post). I will most probably (automatically, in fact) think of the 100 leaflets to be distributed. However, there can be benefits in stepping up the concept level (of the leaflets) to a more general concept level. This can lead to tangents/ideas such as:

Study other leaflets and ask myself "Why are these effective?"
Ask "In what other ways could a paper medium be used to publicize the business?"

Similarly, if I turn my attention to the advertising campaign I will automatically think of this campaign -- the campaign involving the leaflet distribution. Stepping up the concept level can lead to tangents/ideas such as:

Read a book on advertising
Consult an advertising professional for feedback

Three ways to step up the concept level

There are three ways to step-up the concept level:

1) Step up to dictionary level
2) Step up to category-triggers
3) Step up to the level created by hindsight-questions

Stepping up to dictionary level

Say, for example, I am directing my attention to the leaflets of the distribution project. To step up to dictionary concept level all I have to do recognise the fact that there is a dictionary entry for that word and that the dictionary definition represents a broader concept. So leaflet in the dictionary will be defined along these lines:

A printed sheet of paper with information, to be distributed for advertising purposes.

So now when I think of leaflets I have the option to consider both the leaflets of the distribution project and the leaflet at dictionary concept level.

When the information is two words or more:

If I am directing my attention to some information represented by more than one word (such as: leaflet distribution) I can do one of four things:

1) Be mindful of the definition for each of the words individually and consider how they would be combined to represent a broader concept level.

2) Imagine that "leaflet distribution" is listed in the dictionary, and consider how the dictionary would define the activity.

3) Imagine that a word has been invented to represent "leaflet distribution" and consider how the dictionary would define the new word. (The word could be something like "leafdishing" etc.)

4) Find an existing dictionary-listed word that is a close approximation of my information. For example, leaflet distribution could be represented by: promotion, publicizing, campaigning etc.

Step up to category-triggers

(See also Listing key information with category-triggers)

There are eight category-triggers:

Time(s) Duration(s) Place(s) Project(s) People(s) Thing(s) Object(s) Activity(ies)

Again, for this example I am focusing on the leaflets. The category-triggers represent (very) broad concepts and the leaflets (and any other information) will be a member of one (or more) of those concepts.


Leaflets = Thing(s), Object(s)
Distribution = Time, Duration, Project, Activity
Car = Thing, Object

So when I am focusing on a piece of information I can also be mindful of the category-trigger concept of which the information is a member.

Step up to the level created by hindsight-questions

In the Listing information with hindsight-focus post I used hindsight-questions. To create a hindsight-question I consider some information (such as the leaflets) and imagine how various questions could've been created that would have prompted me to give that information (the leaflets) as an answer. One hindsight-question for the leaflets was:

Name something that took you hours to prepare

I can use this information to form a concept: things that took you hours to prepare. Another hindsight-question for the leaflets was:

What's needed the most consideration?

I can use that to form a concept: things that need(ed) the most consideration.

Repeating the upping of concept level

I have the option to follow the use of one concept-upping techniques with the use of another. This can continue indefinitely.


With a leaflet as my information, I can step up to the concept level created by a hindsight-question:

Leaflet = paper advertisement

Then use another hindsight-question to step up:

Paper advertisement = something people read that tells them about the business

Then step up to dictionary concept level (by imagining a word created to describe "something people read that tells them about a business"):


Then use another hindsight-question to step up:

Info-data = useful information

See also: Serious Creativity: Using the Power of Lateral Thinking to Create New Ideas by Edward de Bono. (Chapter : The Concept Fan)


Friday, August 25, 2006

The Optician Project. Listing information with hindsight-focus

FreeFoto.comI'm an optician and I'm about to do a project: I'll leave my premises to put advertising leaflets on the windscreens of local cars. I have hired a temp to help me distribute the leaflets. We have fifty leaflets each to distribute.


Hindsight-focus is a useful strategy for listing more information about a subject. With hindsight-focus I choose a listed piece of information and, in effect, I'm asking "Why didn't I focus on that information before?"; I form a hindsight-question: a question that could've made me give the information as an answer. Then I use that question to list yet more information.


With the Optician Project, the leaflet has been listed. My hindsight-question could be (among other possibilities): "What part of the project uses paper?". I can then use that question to list more information:

What part of the project uses paper?:

I scribbled my first draft on a piece of paper. I'll be paying the temp with cash. I'll be keeping a record of the number of customers generated by the leaflet distribution.

Structuring the hindsight-questions

There are (currently) thirteen ways I use to structure hindsight-questions. An example for each is described here (applied to the information: the leaflets)

Name (1 word)

Subject = leaflets
Hindsight-question: Name an advertisement.
Other answers to the hindsight-question: the job advert the temp saw that made him apply. I saw an advertisement in Yellow Pages for the printers who I chose to print my leaflets.

Name (2 word)

Subject = leaflets
Hindsight-question: Name an essential component.
Other answers to hindsight-question: Us! The distribution. Leaflet recipient's reading of the leaflet. Recipients becoming customers.

Name (3 word or more)

Subject = leaflets
Hindsight-question: Name something that took you hours to prepare.
Other answers to hindsight-question: The route. The leaflet's layout on my PC.


Subject = leaflets
Hindsight-question: What's in a quantity of 100?
Other answers to hindsight-question: Potential customers. 100 distributions. 100 placings of the leaflets onto cars. The print run.

What's (1 word)?

Subject = leaflets
Hindsight-question: What's held?
Other answers to hindsight-question: The windscreen wipers on cars (as we place leaflets on cars). The temp's cash when he gets paid

What's (2 word)?

Subject = leaflets
Hindsight-question: What's green paper?
Other answers to hindsight-question: The original draft.

What's (3 words or more)?

Subject = leaflets
Hindsight-question: What will appear at the distribution street?
Other answers to hindsight-question: Us. The cars' owners. New cars. Passers-by.

What's (superlative)

Subject = leaflets
Hindsight-question: What's needed the most consideration?
Other answers: The wording on the leaflets. Who to employ to help me distribute leaflets. Where to distribute the leaflets. The number of leaflets to distribute.

What's (the size of)

Subject = leaflets
Hindsight-question: What's the size of a paperback book?
Other answers: The plastic bags we are carrying to cover the leaflets (in case of rain). The original draft.

What's (the shape of?)

Subject = leaflets
Hindsight-question: What's the shape of a rectangle?
Other answers: The plastic bags carried to cover the leaflets. The cash paid to the temp.

What's (coloured X)?

Subject = leaflets
Hindsight-question: What's coloured green?
Other answers: The back of the leaflets. The draft. Some of the cars that will receive a leaflet. My rivals (!)

What's (action)ing?

Subject = leaflets
Hindsight-question: What's advertising?
Other answers: Us -- as our presence is seen in the high street.The copy of the leaflet I display at my premises in the window. The project will have been advertised -- to a degree -- to the printer and its staff who saw the advert.

What's (Action...Subject)

Subject = leaflets
Hindsight-question: What's attracting attention?
Other answers: Us. The presence of something on cars will no doubt make some motorists think they have a parking ticket! Our approaching cars and putting leaflets under the windscreen wipers. Our absence at the optician's premises will no doubt be noticed by some (existing) customers.


Optician Project: Using random words to list information

FreeFoto.comI'm an optician and I'm about to do a project: I'll leave my premises to put advertising leaflets on the windscreens of local cars. I have hired a temp to help me distribute the leaflets. We have fifty leaflets each to distribute.

Edward de Bono's random word technique (a random stimulation method) can be used to create ideas. Random words (and phrases) can also be used to help list information. There are three ways that a random word/phrase can be used to list information:

1) Literal interpretation
2) Degree of interpretation
3) Couplet (find connections)

Literal Interpretation


I'm considering the Optician Project and my random word is "movement". To use this word to list information I create a directive:

Name a project movement.

There are many correct answers of course, and no wrong answers. But my first thought is: the movement that a leaflet makes when a car owner moves a leaflet from under their windscreen wiper.

Degree of interpretation

My random phrase is "record breaker". The directive reads:

Name a project record breaker.

Which poses a problem -- it's difficult to see how any records are broken by the distribution of leaflets. So I add quotation marks to "record breaker" to remind myself to interpret the random phrase to a degree:

Name a project "record breaker".

Which, for me, immediately triggers two responses: the distribution area that produces the most responses (of customers coming to the optician's premises), and the individual (either the temp or me) who distributes the most leaflets in the least amount of time.


My random word is "night". However, I can't think of answer -- either a literal interpretation or a degree of interpretation. So I form a couplet in this format:

(Project & night)

and try to find connections between "the project" and "night". A good way to do this is to track backwards and forwards in time.

Possible answers: Some of the leaflets will still be on the cars at night.
I'll be reflecting on the project tonight.

More examples

Random word = "lady"
Name project lady
Easy: my receptionist or any lady whose car receives a leaflet.

Random phrase = "Star Wars"
Name project Star Wars.
Name project "Star Wars"
Couplet (Project & Star Wars)
Answer: Star Wars was the most successful film. What's the most successful part of the project? Answers: when a leaflet produces a customer. When the leaflet distribution is completed.
Also, Star Wars was shown at the local cinema -- the cars outside the cinema will be leafleted by us.

Random word = "grow"
Name a project grow
Answer: when the number of leaflets we've distributed gradually increases.

Random phrase = "Buzz Aldrin"
Name a project Buzz Aldrin
Name a project "Buzz Aldrin"
Interpretation: the second car to receive a leaflet. The temp -- who is second in command.
Couplet (Project and Buzz Aldrin)
Answer: Buzz Aldrin was a pioneer, and this is a pioneering project (for this, opticians, anyway).

See also: sources for random words


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Optician Project: Inger profiling for the listing of information

FreeFoto.comI'm an optician and I'm about to do a project: I'll leave my premises to put advertising leaflets on the windscreens of local cars. I have hired a temp to help me distribute the leaflets. We have fifty leaflets each to distribute.

Question: What future people will like the project?
Possible answers: Me (as optician) -- if custom improves. Customers who get a good deal.

Question: What past activities prompted the project?
Possible answers: Lack of customers coming to the shop. My reading about another optician who did a similar project.

Question: What present place hinders the project?
Possible answer: The local car park -- they won't let us put our leaflets on the cars.

Question: What future object will remember the project?
Possible answer: My diary

I call the above questions prompter-questions and the answers (me, customers, visiting, reading, local car park and diary) I call ingers. An inger is a time(s), duration(s), place(s), person(s), project(s), thing(s), object(s) or activity(ies) that did/does/will carry out an action on the subject in the past, present or future. Inger profiling helps with the listing of information about a subject. The other information listed in answering the prompter-question can also be gathered and the inger profiling can continue until an exhaustive list of information is generated. This information can range from the obvious and important to the obscure.

Applying inger profiling to the optician project

I can use the following table to create a prompter-question that I use to name an inger.

I choose a word from box one, a word from box two and then complete my prompter-question by specifying my subject (in this case, the optician's leaflet distribution project). So past (box one) and place(s) (box two) give:

What past place did (an action) on the leaflet distribution project?

Possible answers I can give to this are:

The printers -- who printed the leaflets.
My home -- where I wrote the first draft for the leaflet.
My desk -- where I stored the leaflets ready for distribution.

So my ingers are: the printers, my home and my desk. The useful information (or focuses) created in the answering of the prompter-question includes: the printing of the leaflets, the leaflets, the writing of the first draft, the first draft itself, the storage of leaflets, preparing for distribution, and the distribution itself.

Specifying the action in the prompter-question

I can continue -- as above -- forming the prompter-questions without a specific action or I can name a specific action -- a verb -- for the action part. (See: How to quickly create a list of verbs). Here are some verbs:

Open: Part: See: Cement: Secure: Pave: Paint: Tow: Towards: Change: Gather: Sweeten: Provoke: Ban: Hate: Display: Steal: Protect: Chase

So to form my prompter-question I choose a word from box one and a word from box two. Then I choose an action from the list above, and finally complete the question by naming my subject. Past, Object(s) and Change gives:

What past object(s) changed the leaflet distribution project?
Possible answers: My PC -- where I designed the leaflet and amended the text. The printer's PC -- where they made cosmetic amendments to the leaflets.

More examples

Future, people(s) and steal gives:
What future people(s) will steal the project?
Possible answers: A local business proprietor could be influenced to do a similar project (He will 'steal' the idea). A youngster passing by a leafleted car could steal the leaflet.

Present, activity(ies) and display gives:
What present activity displays the the project?
Possible answers: Our leaving the premises carrying a bundle of leaflets displays the leaflets. The printer reviewing his accounts will see a record of my investment in their services.

More examples (link to come...)


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Optician Project: Switching the focus

FreeFoto.comI'm an optician, I'm about to leave my premises to put advertising leaflets on the windscreens of local cars. I have hired a temp to help me distribute the leaflets. We have fifty leaflets each to distribute.

In the previous post -- Listing key information with category-triggers -- I showed how the category-triggers can be used to list key information. However, when I am doing this listing (or have completed the listing) I can find that my attention is drawn to some information that seems as though it would be a good subject itself for the listing of information with the category-triggers.

For example, when listing places relevant to the leaflet project, one of the places listed was: the optician's premises. The premises would make a worthy subject for the listing of information and I can opt to make the premises my main focus; if I am Mind mapping "the optician's premises" becomes the centre of the Mind map.

Listing key information with category-triggers

As the optician's premises is now my main focus of attention I can apply the procedure described in the last post -- the listing of key information with the category-triggers. However, here's an important point: when I get to the stage of listing projects (of the optician's premises) the first project I should list is the optician's project -- the distribution of the leaflets to attract new customers. It's almost as though the premises and the project have swapped places in the Mind map -- the optician's premises becomes the centre of the Mind map and the project (leaflet distribution) becomes a branch of that Mind map (click to enlarge)

The optician's premises: information listed with category-triggers

Opening time. First customer of day arrives. New stock arrives. Closing time. Anniversary of first opening.

The Christmas period. The half hour it takes for an eye-test. Weekends. The business year. Purchase made.

The front counter. The display area (for glasses). The front window. The eye-test room. The forecourt.

The leaflet distribution. Arranging the displays. General maintenance. Utilizing latest technology. Finding the right product for each customer.

Me (as optician). The receptionist. All customers. Rival opticians. Dissatisfied customers.

The ambience. The winter/summer temperature. The risk of vandalism/shoplifting. Demand. Size of premises.

Any glasses on display. Contact lenses. The telephone. Eye-test equipment. Furniture.

Receiving a phone call. Cleaning. Maintaining records. Greeting customers. Arranging stock layout.

The option to stay mindful of the original focus

It may well be that both the premises and the project (leaflet distribution) are worthy focuses in their own right and can thus be treated as separate entities. However, I may choose to remain mindful of the original focus (the leaflet distribution project) as I list information about the premises. Here is an example of how that can be a valuable strategy:

When I listed places relevant to the premises I listed the forecourt. Now if I turn my attention to the original focus -- the leaflet distribution project -- I see that the leaflets were listed as one of the leaflet distribution project's objects. Turning my thoughts to creativity I can "cross-pollinate" (the forecourt and the leaflets) to create an idea: the forecourt could have an advertising board that is similar in appearance to the leaflets -- same colouring, style and logo etc. Thus the "brand" of this opticians will be more recognisable, and any leaflet-recipient seeking the opticians will immediately recognise the optician's shop as the place they need to go.


The Optician Project: Listing key information with category-triggers

FreeFoto.comI'm an optician, I'm about to leave my premises to put advertising leaflets on the windscreens of local cars. I have hired a temp to help me distribute the leaflets. We have fifty leaflets each to distribute.

The Category-triggers

The following category-triggers can be used in any project to help list information -- particularly information that is key to the project.

Time(s) Duration(s) Place(s) Project(s) People(s) Thing(s) Object(s) Activity(ies)

The Optician Project and category-triggers

My aim here is to use the category-triggers to make a preliminary list of key information about the optician project. I want to make a list of five facts for each category-trigger. If I were to create a template to guide my listing it would look as follows:

Using each category-trigger to list information about the optician project


I want to name five key/important times of the project. If I set myself a directive it reads:

Name five key time(s) of the project.

Here are the five I choose:

Time 1 = Briefing the temp on my requirements
Time 2 = Leaving the shop
Time 3 = Putting the first leaflet on the first car
Time 4 = The end of the project
Time 5 = The first customer comes in with a leaflet


What's the difference between a time and a duration? A time is a specific time and a duration is period of time. There is some overlap, and I can also opt to specify the time a duration begins. My directive for duration(s) reads:

Name five key duration(s) of the project

Duration 1 = The afternoon of leaflet distribution
Duration 2 = Today -- the day of the project
Duration 3 = Ten seconds -- the time it takes to put one leaflet on a car
Duration 4 = Five minutes -- the time it takes me to explain my requirements to the temp
Duration 5 = Six weeks -- the time over which I expect new customers to arrive with leaflets


Again, with place(s) I am responding to a directive:

Name five key place(s) of the project.

Here are my five:

Place 1 = The optician's premises
Place 2 = The street with cars
Place 3 = The location of the first car to receive a leaflet
Place 4 = The location of the last car
Place(s) 5 = The delivery area allocated to the temp


If a project is a number of actions over a period of time working towards an outcome(s) then it's obvious that some sub-projects will occur within the main project. Here are my five:

Project 1 = Designing the leaflet
Project 2 = Printing the leaflet
Project 3 = Putting the leaflet on one car
Project 4 = Greeting and helping the new customers that result from the leaflet distribution
Project 5 = Our returning to the premises after the distribution


People 1 = Me (as the optician)
People 2 = The temp
People(s) 3 = Anyone who receives a leaflet
People 4 = My receptionist
People(s) 5 = Anyone who uses the leaflet and visits the opticians


It's obvious that any of the other category-triggers -- or the information they produce -- could be considered to be a "thing" but this category exists as an option to help me list any miscellaneous items or anything abstract or intangible. I don't worry if I name something that would be better suited to another category; the important thing is to list any relevant information.

Thing 1 = The first impression a leaflet gives
Thing 2 = The way a leaflet is left on a car
Thing 3 = The "feelgood factor" that will occur when the distribution is complete
Thing(s) 4 = The receptionist's thoughts on the project
Thing 5 = The leaflet's colour


Object(s) 1 = The leaflets
Object 2 = The first leaflet
Object(s) 3 = The windscreen wipers where the leaflets will be placed
Object(s) 4 = Any car that receives a leaflet
Object 5 = The hand that puts a leaflet onto a car


Activity 1 = Choosing a car to receive a leaflet
Activity 2 = Allocating fifty leaflets to the temp
Activity 3 = Reflecting on the project at the end of the day
Activity 4 = Putting a leaflet under a windscreen wiper
Activity 5 = Ending the distribution at the point we run out of leaflets

The pool of information

At the end of this exercise I am left with a useful pool of information. At this point I can choose to end the exercise, or complete the exercise again. If I do repeat then "cross-pollination" will occur -- the information/facts in my pool of information will help to trigger yet more information. For example, if I'm repeating the exercise and at the point where I'm listing place(s), then the receptionist (one of the people(s) listed) could trigger thoughts of the places where the leaflets are stored before distribution.

Mind Map

Here's a Mind map (Wikipedia: Mind maps) showing the information prompted by the category-triggers (click to enlarge):


Monday, August 21, 2006

The Optician Project: starting out

FreeFoto.comI'm an optician, I'm about to leave my premises to put advertising leaflets on the windscreens of local cars. I have hired a temp to help me distribute the leaflets. We have fifty leaflets each to distribute.

If I want to think about this project with a view to creating many focuses and ideas, I will want a starting point -- a handle on which to base my preliminary thoughts. I'll choose a single word to start with, and the word I choose is "project". I can define a project as:

A number of activities that occur over a period of time that work towards an outcome(s).

Applying this definition to my optician project gives:

Activities = putting leaflets on cars
Period of time = this afternoon
Outcome(s) = promoting awareness of my business. Bringing in more customers

So if I refer to "the project" then my staff -- a receptionist and the temp -- know exactly what I'm referring to:
this afternoon's putting of leaflets onto cars to promote the business and attract more customers.

If I were Mind mapping then "the project" would sit proudly at the centre of the Mind map.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Quota Listing

FreeFoto.comI'm an optician, I'm about to leave my premises to put advertising leaflets on the windscreens of local cars. I have hired a temp to help me distribute the leaflets. We have fifty leaflets each to distribute.

Okay, so I'm an optician and I'm sat here ready to distribute the leaflets. Now, suppose that someone walks into my optician's premises and asks "Who's the boss?" Of course, I would answer "I am!" Job done? Question answered satisfactorily? Not necessarily. I can set a quota for my answering of the question; I step into fuzzy-thinking territory and find out how many answers I can create to the question "Who's the boss?"

I call this listing technique quota-listing 25/100. At first I try to create twenty five possible answers to the question and then proceed to thoughts of the first hundred and then beyond. As I do this, I allow a high degree of 'fuzz' in my thinking: I consider how many people could -- even if it's by the smallest, slightest degree -- be labeled "the boss".

The first 25

Boss 1 = me

Boss 2 = my receptionist
Obviously my receptionist plays a pivotal role in the running of the business. So, to a degree, my receptionist is the boss

Boss 3 = my wife
My wife makes a contribution to the business by providing feedback and helping me maintain my well-being.

Boss 4 = the temp
Helping me to distribute the leaflets on this day. A valid contribution to the business

Boss 5 = my most regular customer
Providing regular custom and feedback, and telling their friends and colleagues how good my service is.

Etc to 25

Up to 100

I can opt to complete the listing up to 100, or I can merely acknowledge and entertain the possibility of completing the list to 100; I can ask myself "What sort of person would be numbered 89?" etc.

Boss 38 = the manager of the restaurant next door
How is he the boss? Well, if he provides good food then more customers will come to his shop/the area and thus more people will see my premises.

Boss 50 = the future boss of this opticians
I don't know who he/she is yet, but surely someone will take over the business in the future.

Boss 78 = the editor of the local newspaper who edits my advertisement in the paper
The editor has the power to help my business by printing my adverts.

etc to 100

Beyond 100

I can continue listing beyond 100, or, as discussed before, merely acknowledge the possibility of listing beyond 100. Again I can ask myself questions like "What sort of person would be numbered at 250 or 2400?".

Boss 312 = Tony Blair
Tony Blair? Yes, he's boss to a degree. His decisions will affect the economy and ultimately affect me and my business.

Boss 1045 = my first ever customer
Played a (very minor) role in shaping the business. Made me realise some mistakes I'd made. Put me in a good mood on my first day.

An example of quota-listing for the optician's location

So the question/directive is:

Name the business's location

Location 1 to 25

Location 1 = 22 New Cambridge Road, London
Obviously at number one is the address.

Location 2 = the east end of the street

Location 3 = next to the barber's shop

Location 4 = South England

etc to 25

Location 26 to 100

Location 26 = my home
I take some of my work home. Many important documents are at home. My home address is, in effect, an extension of my work premises.

Location 27 = my car
Contains documents and I spend much time in my car thinking about the business

Location 36 = the map/sign at the end of the road that shows the names of all the shops in this road

Location 57 = the local newsagents: there is an advert for my opticians in the window

Location 89 = the local park
Where I often walk and think about my business

100 plus

Location 101 = the advertisement for my business in Yellow Pages
Another way that my business extends beyond the four walls.

Location 140 = the home of one of my regular customers

Location 812 = the pair of glasses that Mr Rogers bought five months ago
These were once on my premises. There is a chance (and a very slim chance, seeing that this is number 812) that someone will see his glasses (just as they do the glasses on show at my premises) and ask where he bought them.

Location 3063 = the local swimming baths
Providing a great service for opticians: where many people lose contact lenses that need replacing!


The switch to creative mode

There is also a creative mode for quota-listing. Here I make the switch from listing information to trying to generate new ideas. With the listing I was answering the directive:

List (25/100) the boss

but now I set the creative directive:

Create (25/100) bosses

(I colour this blue to differentiate it from the listing.)

The creative-mode is very different from the listing-mode. My first directive reads:

Create boss 1

and I consider what this could mean. The first possibility is this: that I get a partner in the business. I can continue with my creating up to 25:

Create boss 2 = promote my receptionist

Create boss 3 = train the temp in the business

Create boss 4 = start looking for a replacement for when I retire

Create boss(es) 5 = sell shares in the business

etc to 24

26 to 100

There comes a point when I can use the information listed at the listing stage to inspire ideas. For example, number 78 on the list of bosses was: the editor of the local newspaper that prints my advertisements. So although I'm not taking the extreme choice of stepping aside and installing him as boss, I can ask myself how he can play more of a role (a 'boss role', if you like) in the business and pay more of a contribution. The initial answer is obvious: I can proactively ask him if he thinks there is any way my advert in his paper can be improved or if the newspaper can play any role in promoting my business.

Create boss 26 = give the newspaper editor an opportunity to give input

Create boss 36 = (using Tony Blair, number 312 at the listing stage) give Tony Blair a one per cent share in the business. An unusual idea -- perhaps to make some kind of political statement. Sure to attract much publicity. Also, my business could be labeled as a 'typical example of a business' and, at budget time, be used to show how the changes in a budget will affect a typical business.

Create boss 78 = (using 1045 from the listing -- the first ever customer) give some randomly chosen customers the chance to give feedback. Maybe by some market research by phone or maybe by actually bringing them to the premises and asking them for feedback on my services and procedures.

100 plus

Create boss 101 = collaborate with the other shopkeepers in this street: create a "shopkeepers club" where the owners meet up regularly and discuss ways to promote the area and each business

Create boss 983 = utilize passers-by. Stop them and say "Ten seconds of your time. What's your first impression of this opticians as you pass?"

Create boss 4038 = Find the remotest opticians in the world and install it as a 'twin' opticians (like the twin-towning scheme).


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Starting-point for creative challenges. Thinking strategies

FreeFoto.comI spotted this situation on Psychology Blog. In short, an optician has decided to publicise his business by printing flyers and putting them on vehicles in the area. I want to use this situation to demonstrate some thoughts on creativity.

I'll put myself into the position of the optician (at a specific time):

I'm an optician, I'm about to leave my premises to put leaflets on the windscreens of local cars. I have hired a temp to help me distribute the leaflets. We have fifty leaflets each to distribute.

A starting-point and initial thinking strategies

What I want to do is consider if there's a starting-point (initial focus) for considering this challenge (or any creative challenge) and investigate if there are some fundamental initial thinking strategies that can develop the starting-point in order to create different ideas, options, focuses, tangents and perspectives -- such as (with me as the optician):

I could do this leaflet distribution on a weekly basis.
I could have made these leaflets in the shape of glasses instead of rectangular -- that would grab more attention.
I could get the temp to dress up in a novelty costume.
I could've contacted an advertising professional or agency to get feedback on the effectiveness of such a scheme.
There is a man selling flowers at the side of the road. I could ask him to give a leaflet to anyone who buys his flowers.
If any passers-by seem curious about what we are doing I will give them a leaflet.
Tomorrow I will print another 100 leaflets and put them through local doors.
I will offer a service to all opticians in London where I'll print their leaflets and employ someone to distribute them.
I'll do some research about the wording of advertisements and see if my choice of words is effective (as discussed on Psychology Blog).
I can get really creative and create some fictional research. Such as: research shows that people are more likely to read a leaflet if it's square rather than rectangular.
Stuff this! I'm going down the pub!
I'm fed up with being an optician -- I want to be a taxi driver.

Care to add to my list of two-word ideas?

See BrainReactions post

Posthumous knighthoods
Robot Olympics
Drunken speed-dating (hmmm, bit of a cheat)
Child honours
Octogenarian Olympics

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Thoughts thoughts thoughts and things...

Just throwing some ideas/thoughts into the blogosphere. I'm putting the ideas on my shadow blog

Creating ideas for the Global Ideas Bank

Compensatory Magic

In order to/which leads to

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A quick method for creating ideas

This method has four stages:

1) Find an object
2) Name a part of that object that exists in multiple form
3) Change a small number of those parts, or add a small number of new forms of that part
4) Use a random word to change those parts


1) Find an object (using naming/listing).

For this example my object is: an ice-cube tray.

2) Name a part of that object that exists in multiple form.

There are many individual cube "cells" in an ice-cube tray.

3) Change a small number of those parts, or add a small number of new forms of that part.

I apply the changes to one, two or three of the parts. I'll focus on the existing parts of an ice-cube tray -- the cube cells -- and I'll opt to change three.

4) Use a random word to change those parts

This can take the format:

Three of the ice-cube cells are X cells

I can consider any immediate changes that are triggered , or I can use a random word to help create ideas. Initially, without a random word, I'm thinking that the cube cells could be rectangular. This would have benefits -- it would be easier to remove an ice cube from a rectangular cell as more leverage would be possible. But with the random words: device, queen and constant I get:

Three of the ice-cube cells are device cells.
Which could suggest that some of the cells could have a device that speeds the icing of the water.

Three of the ice-cube cells are queen cells.
Which suggest that three of the cells could be more important than all the others. Maybe they could be much bigger. Perhaps there could be an ice-cube tray that doesn't have any cells -- it would be just a rectangular box and you would have to break up the ice after freezing according to how much ice you need.

Three of the ice-cube cells are constant cells.
A means of keeping the cells at the same temperature -- even when the ice-cube tray is removed? There could be a device that wraps round the tray to keep the cubes frozen when you know you will need a few.

Creating "What if?" questions: the trigger

Considering the following "What if?" questions:

What if animals became more intelligent than people?
What if we had edible clothing?

I could conclude that, if these events were actualised, the results would be:

Animals are more intelligent than people
Clothing is edible.

What's the source or origin of these changes? I could consider that the origin is me -- as a god, omnipotent being, possessor of magical powers (or whatever) I would be able to effect the changes. I would be the trigger of the changes. I can rewrite the WI? questions thus:

What if I make animals more intelligent than people?
What if I make clothing edible?

Other triggers can be considered:

Ation triggers

An ation is simply any action carried out on an object. So, with the "What if?" question:

What if committing a crime makes you smell bad?

The ation is "committing a crime". I can opt to create a word for the ation. With "committing a crime" it could be something like "CC-ation". So CC-ation is the trigger that makes you smell bad. Here are some more ations:

Riding a bike
Meeting an old friend
Brushing your teeth
Buying a car

Any of these could be used as the trigger for a WI? action:

What if riding a bike makes the rider ill?
What if brushing your teeth makes your teeth smell unpleasant?
What if buying a car makes the car increase in value?

Random word triggers

I can also opt to make any single random word a trigger for the changes. With nighttime, shouting, and viruses:

What if nighttime makes people fall asleep instantly?
What if shouting makes your IQ double?
What if viruses make you psychic?

Specific categories for triggers

I can also create triggers based on the following categories:

Time (duration), Place (area), Person(s), Thing, Object, Activity.

I can use one of these categories in a WI? question:

What if a time makes your legs paralysed?

and then name a specific time (or duration) for the "time". Thus:

What if the midnight hour makes your legs paralysed?

Creating "What if?" questions: sentence restructuring

With the sentence-restructuring technique for "What if?" questions I simply write an existing WI? question, choose a word in the question and restructure the sentence to make that word the last word in the sentence. This last word becomes the focus word.

So with the WI? question:

What if the air could think?

I choose the word "air". Restructuring the sentence to make "air" the last word leads to:

What if thinking could be done by air?

and "air" becomes the focus-word.

Changing the focus-word

There are three ways I can change the focus-word: replace it, name/list, reverse-reach followed by naming/listing.

Replacing the focus-word

To replace the focus-word I simply choose a random word to take its place:

What if thinking could be done by: smells, guns, alarms, television? etc.

Naming/Listing the focus-word

I can apply the naming/listing approach to the focus-word. The aim is to produce a list of many different types of air:

Bad air, smelly air, air exhaled in a breath, subterranean air, smokey air etc.

Any/all of these can be selected as a focus-word:

What if thinking could be done by the air exhaled in a breath?

(See also 500 uses for a paperclip: stepping up the concept level and naming/listing which covers this approach in more detail.)

Reverse-reach followed by naming/listing

With this approach I consider the focus-word -- air -- and apply reverse-reach followed by naming/listing. With reverse-reach I consider questions that could have been asked that made me give "air" as an answer. Such as:

Name something that's all around us
Name something that goes in your mouth
Name something that contains nitrogen
Name something you can't see

I can choose one of these and give an alternative answer. So if I choose "Name something that goes in your mouth" I can answer:

Toothbrush, food, drink, flies, whistle etc.

Then I can apply naming/listing to any of these. With "drink" I could list:

Baby drinks, alcoholic drinks, rare drinks, fizzy drinks etc.

Then I can choose any of these to complete my WI? question:

What if thinking could be done by alcoholic drinks?

Applying sentence restructuring again

I can continue the sentence restructuring on any WI? question created. With the WI? question:

What if thinking could be done by the air exhaled in a breath?

I could restructure it thus:

What if thinking could be done by the exhaled breath's air?

and change the focus-word in any of the three ways discussed above:

What if thinking could be done by the exhaled breath's micro-organisms?
What if thinking could be done by the exhaled breath's moist air?
What if thinking could be done by the exhaled breath's carbon dioxide?

Creating "What if?" questions: total conversion

This technique can be used to create "What if?" questions such as:

What if we had mouths in the palms of our hands?
What if people had wheels for feet?
What if people had pliers for hands?
What if human bones were made of glass?
What if the air could think?

These questions can be created with two techniques: total conversion and piecemeal conversion.

Total conversion technique

With the total conversion technique, one subject (usually an object) simply converts/turns into another object. Using this approach I name a subject-object (using naming/listing) and name a target-object (also with naming/listing).


Subject-object = eyelid. Target-object = bottle opener. What if = What if eyelids became bottle openers?

Subject-object = newspaper. Target-object = coelacanth. What if = What if newspapers became coelacanths?

Gradual conversion technique

With gradual conversion, I consider how an object could make a piecemeal conversion into another object, usually by considering how only one characteristic could change at one time. So if I have created the "What if?" question:

What if the air became a brain?

I can list one characteristic of the brain (perhaps by asking a question such as: "How (insert adjective) is the brain?") which could be: intelligence. So, as part of the air's "journey" towards becoming a brain, the intelligence of the air would be the first characteristic to change. In effect, I would be left with "intelligent air".

At that point I can either stop or opt to carry on the air's conversion to a brain by considering another characteristic.

Creating What If? questions: conversion by degree

This technique can be used to create "What if?" questions such as:

What if animals became more intelligent than people?
What if we had edible clothing?
What if gravity were twice as strong?
What if your sense of smell amplified by a factor of 100?
What if diamonds became the most fragile substance?
What if all the children suddenly became adults?
What if farm animals stopped reproducing?
What if all the dead people came back to life?
What if all your daydreams became public?

Five stages

There are five stages to conversion by degree:

1) Choosing a subject
2) Asking "How X is the subject"?
3) Providing the "X" for part two by creating a list of adjectives
4) Increasing or decreasing the degree of the "X"
5) Forming the "What if?" questions

1) Choosing a subject

To choose a subject I use the naming/listing technique. For this example, my subject is "accidents". The random word "green" creates a naming/listing directive:

Name green accidents

Which could be: accidents that affect the environment = oil spills.

For this example "oil spills" is my subject.

2) Asking "How X is the subject?"

At this stage I ask:

How X are oil spills?

I need an adjective for the "X".

3) Providing the "X" for part two by creating a list of adjectives

There are systematic techniques I can use to create a list of adjectives. Using some of those techniques for this example I create the adjectives:

Silent, allowed, recorded, red, pretentious, nasty, patriotic, small

I randomly choose one of these adjectives -- allowed -- and complete my question thus:

How allowed are oil spills?

I can consider that oil spills are legal, but frowned upon.

4) Increasing or decreasing the degree of the "X"

Next I increase or decrease the degree of the adjective -- in this case: allowed. I can opt to either slightly change the degree or change it by an extreme amount.

5) Forming the "What if?" question

I can form my "What if?" question from considerations resulting from a slight or extreme change of degree. With the oil-spill example I opt for an extreme decrease in the degree to which oil spills are allowed:

What if oil spills were totally forbidden and punishment for offenders is draconian?

More examples

1) Choose subject: Name a cash word = money.
2) Ask "How X is subject?"
3) Provide adjective(s): decent, toxic, automatic, friendly.
"Toxic" gives: How toxic is money?
4) Increasing/decreasing the adjective: money becomes fatally toxic
5) Form "What if?" question: What if handling money were fatal?

1) Subject: Articulated lorries
2) How X are articulated lorries?
3) Adjective = "lazy" gives: How lazy are articulated lorries?
4) Increase degree: articulated lorries become so "lazy" that they stop moving.
Decrease degree: articulated lorries become less lazy (energetic) to the point that they never stop moving
5) "What if?" questions:
What if all the articulated lorries stopped working?
What if it became impossible to stop all lorries?
or (with a little imagination): What if articulated lorries didn't need petrol?

1) Subject: Name horse accident = falling off a horse
2) How X is falling off a horse?
3) Adjective = "speedy". How speedy is falling off a horse?
4) Increase degree: Your fall from a horse is so fast that you are sure to be hurt
Decrease degree: As soon as you fall from a horse you float to the ground in slow-motion
5) "What if?" questions:
What if all falls from a horse were fatal or resulted in serious injuries?
What if you knew that you couldn't be injured while horse riding?

By-products and imagination

Notice how WI? questions can be the by-product of other WI? questions. A little imagination can lead to interesting considerations:

What if we stayed drunk for a week?
What if intoxication only lasted an hour?
(Both products of changing the degree of longevity of intoxication)

can lead to questions such as:

What if pills could be taken to reduce levels of intoxication?
What if you couldn't work for a week?
What if hangovers lasted a week?
What if you could get drunk instantly?

"What if?" Questions

Here are some great "What if?" questions from Roger von Oech:

What if animals became more intelligent than people?
What if we had mouths in the palms of our hands?
What if men also had babies?
What if we had edible clothing?
What if we elected our officials by lottery?
What if human life expectancy were 150 years?
What if people exuded a foul smell from every pore whenever they did anything bad?
What if people had wheels for feet?
What if you had no memory whatsoever of your first ten years?
What if people had pliers for hands?
What if human bones were made of glass?
What if there were no trees?
What if you could only talk one hour a day?
What if gravity were half as strong?
What if people ate only one meal every two days?
What if people exuded a terrible smell from all their pores whenever they behaved unethically?
What if all human beings died at the age of 50?
What if your sense of smell were amplified by a factor of 100?
What if trees developed the ability to move themselves up to 2 meters a day?
What if all right angles (90 degrees) were prohibited in all new construction?
What if every person was required to spend at least two years outside of the country where they were born?

I have created some systematic techniques to create "What if?" questions so that their creation is less dependent on huge "creative leaps":

Creating "What if?" questions: conversion by degree
Creating "What if?" questions: total conversion
Creating "What if?" questions: sentence restructuring
Creating "What if?" questions: the trigger


Monday, August 07, 2006

Paperclipology: finding key facts with the suffix and stem methods

(Part of the "Name five hundred uses for a paperclip" project.)

The suffix method

This is a quick method that can help with the listing of key information about a subject -- in this case, paperclips. I start out with my subject:


and simply add a suffix to the word to see what the 'new' word suggests. For example, the suffixes (pl?) "er", "ing", "able" and "ish" give "paperclipper", "paperclipping", "papperclippable" and "paperclippish" which suggest:

Paperclipper = someone who uses a paperclip (or perhaps someone who assists in the manufacturing in some way)
Paperclipping = using a paperclip
Paperclippable = something that can be paperclipped
Paperclippish = like a paperclip

Finding more suffixes

Random words can be used to provide new suffixes. With this approach I take a few letters from the end of the word -- or even the whole word -- to use as my suffix:

Tesco -- take "co" to give: paperclip-co = a company that makes paperclips
Plant -- take "plant" to give: paperclip-plant = the area of a company where the manufacturing occurs
Eyebank -- take "bank" to give: paperclip-bank = any receptacle for paperclips
Duplicity -- take "icity" to give: paperclipicity = dexterity with a paperclip (?)

Obviously not every word will provide a workable suffix and often a little imagination is needed to find/create a meaning. The good suffixes (such as "ing", "er" and "able" etc) are worth remembering as they will work with any other subject.

Creating a stem

It can be worth removing letters from the end of the word to give a new word that can be used with the suffix method. Removing "clip" from "paperclip" gives "paper" which is obviously very pertinent to the challenge.

Paperer = someone that uses paper
Papering = using paper
Paperable = something capable of being printed on paper or made with paper
Paperish = like paper

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A brainstorming tip: systematically memorizing ten ideas and interesting thoughts from a brainstorm

This is a routine I've developed that I apply at the end of a brainstorm. I make a list of ten items from the brainstorm -- combining interesting ideas and interesting thoughts -- and systematically memorize them. Thus I can run through the list at later dates and see if the grey matter can provide any further insights or ideas.

Memory Systems

I use the memory systems documented by the likes of Tony Buzan and Harry Lorayne (his The Memory Book (with Jerry Lucas) introduced me to memory systems). The number-shape peg system is a good method. With this method you write the numbers 0 - 9 and consider what objects the numbers resemble.

0 = hole in the ice
1 = telegraph pole
2 = swan
3 = breasts

Then you write your list of ten items and associate each item (often using ridiculous, exaggerated imagery) with the number-shape objects.

0 (hole in the ice) + 'what if you had to buy a cat every time you buy a dog?' = see a mischievous dog throwing a terrified cat down a hole in the ice

1 (telegraph pole) + Idea: a second water supply to each house with untreated water for use in the garden = see your neighbour climbing a telegraph pole to access a tap at the top


Fake dinosaur trivia

Here's some "fake dinosaur trivia" I have memorized and that I keep reviewing:

1) Some dinosaurs were so dumb they would literally attack their own reflection in water
2) A dinosaur desperately in need of fluid would pierce its own skin and drink its blood
3) Some sea-dwelling dinosaurs would produce a "siren call" that would lure unsuspecting dinosaurs into the water
4) Some dinosaurs would "play dead" before attacking an unsuspecting prey
5) A dinosaur would never attack a dinosaur of the same species
6) Smaller dinosaurs had larger territories than larger dinosaurs
7) If a carnivore ate a herbivore the carnivore would vomit the contents of the herbivore's stomach
8) The T-rex could run faster on an incline than it could on level ground
9) Some carnivores could guarantee themselves a greater number of prey by producing a rancid smell that would scare other carnivores from the area
10) The dinosaurs died out when herbivores starting killing other herbivores to use as decoys

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A creative exercise: spotting no action in an action

This is a creative exercise I like. I name an action and consider how that action is not occurring. It's a very good creative challenge and helps to uncover some unusual focuses. I use the format:

When (action) is occurring how is (action) not occurring?

So with the action "running" I consider:

When I am running how am I not running?

I try to name about ten ways that the action is not occurring -- even if they are only applicable to a slight degree or a bit of a cheat.

1) At times my elbows are kind of traveling in the opposite direction
2) As I'm running I'm getting nearer to the end of my run (when I'll be not running)
3) As my feet hit the floor my shoe soles stay on the floor for a moment
4) My mind can be elsewhere -- I'm daydreaming about anything other than running!
5) I'm not flat out -- so I'm nearer to stopping than I could be
6) If I'm looking at something in the distance I don't perceive my movement as much
7) If I were watching the action from outer space the turn of the earth would seem to cancel out any movement
8) Sometimes my shoe soles will slip an imperceptible amount, thus making me closer to falling than running
9) There will be some fluctuations in my pace: sometimes I will speed up slightly, sometimes slow down
10) If I'm breathing heavily then my attention may be on my breathing rather than the actual running

Another example

Action = watching television.
When I'm watching television how am I not watching television?

1) I blink
2) Sometimes I will be distracted by something in the room
3) I will reach for the remote control to view teletext
4) My mind can wander off while I'm watching
5) I won't pay as much attention if there's a commercial break
6) I won't pay much attention to the breaks between programmes
7) If it's getting late my thoughts may be turning to sleep
8) It's impossible to give the TV one hundred percent attention
9) I'm partially aware of my surroundings: is the phone ringing? Is someone at the door?
10) The size of the screen is actually quite small; if it were bigger than naturally the TV would receive more attention from me.

How to create new ideas for existing TV shows

Here is a simple approach that can create ideas for new episodes of existing TV shows. There are four stages:

List TV shows
List simple information about the show
Represent the simple information
State the information in "idea form" and apply changes to the focus word

List TV shows

I start by making a list of TV shows. I can do this by using a resource such as the IMDB (which lists TV shows in addition to movies) or by triggering my memory using naming/listing (I have a thing about everything being achievable with just a pen and paper -- "imagination is greater than knowledge" and all that).

List simple information about the show

For this example I will choose the Antiques Roadshow. I want to list simple, key information about the show. I can do this in two ways: by finding key information in the title or by making a simple description of the show.

Information in the title:

Information contained within the title "Antiques Roadshow" is: antiques, roadshow, road and show.

Simple description:

I can imagine making a simple description of the show to someone who's never heard of or seen the show: it's a show where members of the public bring in antiques and have them valued by experts.

Representing this information

I represent this information in the format "Antiques Roadshow has X" which, with my information gathered, gives:

Antiques Roadshow has antiques
Antiques Roadshow has roadshow
Antiques Roadshow has road (the location)
Antiques Roadshow has show
Antiques Roadshow has members of the public
Antiques Roadshow has valuations
Antiques Roadshow has experts

State the information in "idea form" and apply changes to the focus word

I choose one of the above items of information, and write it in "idea form". Thus:

The new Antiques Roadshow has antiques.

The last word in the sentence -- antiques -- is the focus word. I will be carrying out two kinds of operation on the focus word -- naming/listing and reverse-reach -- to generate the ideas.

Naming/listing the focus word

(See also 500 uses for a paperclip: stepping up the concept level and naming/listing which discusses this technique.)

At this stage I want to name as many examples of antiques as I can. Here are some examples:

Book antiques = antique books. July antiques = antiques made in July. Half antiques = unfinished antiques. Proper antiques = antiques that are, without doubt, authentic. Wish antiques = the most desirable antiques. Pretend antiques = antique toys. Ship antiques = antiques in transit. David Soul antiques = valuable props from TV shows. 100 antiques = antiques that are one hundred years old.

Once this listing has been completed the "idea form" sentence is made into the final idea by adding any/all of the information listed above. So if I choose "the most desirable antiques" my sentence reads:

The new Antiques Roadshow has the most desirable antiques.

So this would suggest an episode of the show where the most desirable antiques are featured -- perhaps something like the top-ten of antiques by auction value, or the top-ten most valuable museum exhibits in the country etc.


With the reverse-reach operation I consider the focus word -- antiques -- and consider a question that someone could have posed that made me give "antiques" as an answer. For example:

Name something that burglars take
Name something old
Name a valuable object
Name something made by craftsmen that is valuable at a later date
Name something you'd see at the Queen's residences

I choose one of these. For this example I'll choose "valuable object". Next I treat "valuable object" as a concept in its own right and apply the naming/listing technique to valuable-object.

Dog valuable-object = diamond encrusted collar. Controversial valuable-object = abstract art. Equipment valuable-object = tools used by the Stradivarius family. Baby valuable-object = Elvis's dummy.

When the listing is complete I can choose either the prompter question (controversial valuable-object) or the answer (abstract art) to be used in the "idea form" sentence:

The new Antiques Roadshow has controversial valuable objects


The new Antiques Roadshow has abstract art

Perhaps the episode could be called "That's an antique?!" and would feature items that have an unexpected high value etc. such as works of art that consist of a canvas painted totally black.

500 uses for a paperclip: stepping up the concept level and naming/listing

Stepping up the concept level

There's a solitary red paperclip on my desk that needs five hundred uses. However, when considering that challenge, am I creating uses for that paperclip, all red paperclips, all paperclips in general, or what? What I like to do at the start of a brainstorming challenge is "up" the concept level to dictionary level. On a written brainstorm I remind myself of the need to do this by writing:

The paperclip is a paperclip

where the latter paperclip is the paperclip(s) I would consider as a result of reading a dictionary definition.


Now that I know I am considering paperclips at the dictionary-level of a concept I can start naming and listing paperclips. The directive can read:

Name paperclip

and I can name paperclips off the top of my head, but I can improve the search by using the directive:

Name X paperclip

where the "X" will be replaced with a random word to help list more paperclip examples.

Naming/listing: using words of two or three letters

For my directive's "X" I usually start by using words of two or three letters. With the random word "key" My directive reads:

Name key paperclip.

I try to list two or three types of key paperclip:

Important paperclips, paperclips used as a keyring, the first ever paperclip manufactured.

Uncovering the "hidden" examples

I like to create a considerable list with the two/three letters approach. This helps to create a multifarious list and uncover the "hidden" examples. For example, the directive:

Name sad paperclip

made me think of an unusual example of a paperclip: Office Assistant. Copious listing helps to uncover more examples -- both the obvious and non-obvious -- and map out the terrain for the challenge.

Using longer words and naming concepts

For my naming/listing directive I can use any random word. So for example:

Name famous paperclip

made me think of this: I traded one red paperclip for a house

However, sometimes a directive will suggest a concept that is worth considering in its own right. With the directive:

Name future paperclip

I can name examples of future paperclips (paperclips I will own, future designs of paperclips etc.) or I can conclude that the concept of future-paperclip is worth listing and remembering in its own right. I can represent this concept with a hybrid-word or opt to make up a neologism.

Using the hybrid-word to list more examples

I can use the above hybrid-word future-paperclip to list more examples. With the directive:

Name next future-paperclip

I could consider: the next paperclip to arrive on the market, paperclips that will by used at the store Next, mooted paperclip designs etc.

Name 500 uses for a paperclip: starting out

As I start out on the classic brainstorming challenge about naming as many uses for a paperclip as possible, there are a number of preliminary stages that I consider:

Switching to present moment awareness
Stating the creative directive
Stepping up the concept level

Switching to present moment awareness

Instead of rushing into the exercise of creating uses for the paperclip I can start out by considering present moment awareness. This takes the form:

Now Here Me Doing: creating 500 uses for a paperclip

The full benefits of this will be considered in a later post. But briefly, this information can be changed with the sentence restructuring technique to provide different insights into the challenge and maybe create some other challenges. I could rearrange the information to read:

Creating 500 uses for a paperclip is being done here now by me.

With "me" as the focus word I could consider alternatives such as asking others to participate in the project, etc.

Stating the creative directive

The creative directive reads:

Create 500 uses for a paperclip

As before, the sentence restructuring approach can provide variations or insights into the challenge. So if I rearranged the information to read:

There are 500 uses for a paperclip that you must create

then with "create" as the focus-word I can generate other alternatives such as:

List 500 uses for a paperclip
Find 500 uses for a paperclip
Improve 500 uses for a paperclip.

Stepping up the concept level and naming/listing

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A quick method for highlighting general problems

In a nutshell: find a subject. Increase or decrease the degree of a characteristic of the subject. Consider problems that would be caused by that. Use those problems to identify real-world problems.

A quick method for highlighting general problems

There are five stages to this method:

1) Find a subject
2) Identify a characteristic of that subject
3) Increase or decrease the degree of that characteristic
4) Consider what problems would be caused by the change of degree
5) Use that problem to highlight 'normal' problems of the subject

Finding a subject

I find a subject using the method I've used in many posts on this blog: the naming/listing method. For this example I'm going to use the template:

Name X object/thing

where the "X" is provided by a random word. With the random word "super" my template reads:

Name super object

I choose: a Superman outfit available for hire from a fancy dress shop.

Identify a characteristic of the subject

I create a list of adjectives and use an adjective to complete a template such as:

How X is it?

With "creative" as my adjective I now consider:

How creative is the superman outfit?

Well, Superman outfits aren't normally noted for their creativity! Never mind...on to the next stage.

Increase or decrease the degree of the characteristic

I opt to increase the degree of creativity of the Superman outfit. What does this mean? To me this suggests that the wearer of the outfit would become more creative. I can continue increasing the degree of the creativity (perhaps even dipping into thoughts on fiction).

Consider problems caused by the change of degree

With the outfit wearer enjoying undreamed of levels of creativity one problem is obvious...they wouldn't want to give the suit back.

Use that problem to highlight 'normal' problems of the subject

The fantasy problem of the wearer not wanting to give the suit back relates to a real problem: people hiring outfits from the fancy dress shop and returning them late. But I can also look to consider other problems that would be caused: wear-and-tear of the outfit, popularity of the outfit leading to high demand, the shop stocking enough outfits to cater for all sizes etc.

More examples

Object: shower head
Characteristic: blind
Question: How blind is it? As a shower cannot be blind, maybe the blindness could extend to the user of the shower.
Problem(s) caused: shower user wouldn't be able to see control for power and temperature
Real problem: finding a comfortable level for power and temperature.

Object: dog food
Characteristic: furry
Question: how furry is it? Not at all. Make it furrier and furrier.
Problem: dog can't eat food.
Real problems: leftover food. Smell of dog food. Cleaning dirty dog dishes.

Object: fish pond
Question: how picturesque is it? Quite. Make it more picturesque until it's stunningly beautiful.
Problem: theft of plants. High maintenance.
Real problems: theft of garden implements. Herons eating fish. Chore of regularly feeding fish.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A couple of thoughts

Here's a couple of things that I've been thinking about lately and that I'd like to pursue when I get a chance.

The start of a creative challenge

Suppose I worked for the BBC and I my creative challenge was: devise an advert for The Apprentice show. There would be a point in the future when my goal to devise a great advert would (hopefully) be realised. However, would there be any value in considering how the goal has already been realised to a degree (even the smallest, almost imperceptible degree) before I've even started working on my challenge? Here are some initial thoughts:

The show itself is already -- to a degree -- an advert as people can switch on the TV and see the show.

The show appears in the TV listings. These too are adverts.

There are already adverts made for other TV shows on the same channel. These will make people more likely to watch TV and thus -- by chance -- happen upon The Apprentice.

This Apprentice example maybe isn't the best example, but I'll consider this approach and see if it offers any insights into creative problem solving. Maybe such thoughts could be used to help list information about a subject or even redefine a challenge. Jump in if you have any thoughts.

Ideas in flux

I've always thought of an idea as a kind of ultimate final product of a number of novel combinations. But what if any idea -- and its components -- is constantly in a state of flux: the 'final' idea is actually just a stage of the journey of a greater idea? Could a kind of 'next stage' of a journey be crafted so that an idea evolves into new ideas and greater concepts are uncovered?