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).


Saturday, August 05, 2006

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