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)


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