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:
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.