Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pre-listing method

Listing information (facts, problems, goals etc) is an essential phase of any brainstorming/creative process and is widely documented. (see Mycoted Creative Problem Solving or CPS Model) The pre-listing approach adds an extra dimension to listing information and helps to suggest directions for the listing and also uncover hidden assumptions.


If a creative (brainstormer, inventor etc) wanted to make a list of people, for example, they could represent this with a directive:

List people

And then ‘answer’ the directive by creating a list such as:

Tony Blair, George Bush, Nicole Kidman, Madonna, Nelson Mandela, Michael Schumacher etc

However, if they were to apply the pre-listing approach they would express the ‘list people’ directive as:

List X-people

The creative would then seek to find words to take the place of ‘X’. The chosen word will have a modifying role and will act as an adjective to modify/colour the ‘people’. So the new directive could appear thus, for example:

List dead-people, local-people, powerful-people, my-people, moronic-people, historic-people, male-people, mad-people, new-people, tribal-people, tory-people

The creative can then treat one of the directives as the answer. So, for example they could treat ‘local-people’ as a concept in itself. Alternatively they can use the directive/answer to prompt them to think of more specific cases. So with the directive/answer ‘local-people’ they could choose ‘my postman’ as a more specific answer.

Finding words for the ‘X’ modifier

The words I use as the modifier will come from two sources: the list of words produced by the pangram trigger and the list of words produced by directed free-association.

I’ve found that words of just two or three letters are initially the best words to use as the X modifier.

The pre-listing approach also helps to uncover assumptions. Notice how, with the directive

List people

A number of assumptions are automatically made in the listing of people. The creative may have assumed that the people must be alive, for example. However, with pre-listing, directives formed such as

List dead-people
List historic-people

the creative can (almost automatically) realise they were making the assumptions that the people listed must be alive and contemporary.

Subjects of pre-listing and their directives
At the start of the brainstorming the creative could choose the following (examples) as the subject of the pre-listing: information, facts, problems, expectations, goals, activitites

With the directives expressed thus:

List X-information
List X-facts
List X-problems
List X-expectations
List X-goals
List X-activities

So if the creative had chosen 'cinema' as the focus of creativity, the directive for List X-information could have led to the following directives/answers:

List new-information, old-information, dad-information, how-information, light-information, more-information, dull-information, deal-information, bill-information, wise-information, poor-information, today-information, to-information, cap-information, finish-information

From those examples, dad-information could lead to a consideration of the number of parents that attend the showings, so perhaps (among other possibilities) considerations about special deals for families could be considered. More-information could lead to considerations about consulting staff for feeback, ideas etc.

The concept level
If the brainstormer had chosen a supermarket as the subject of brainstorming/creativity and they wanted to list people they could express the directive as:

List X-people

The assumption that would be made here is that the listed people would be relevant to/associated with the supermarket. The creative can step to the concept level instead, so that instead of listing people associated with the supermarket they would list any people. The concept level is dictionary concept-level. So the creative would forget about the supermarket people (for the moment) and list people according to the dictionary concept of people. After that the creative could then go on to consider the supermarket-related people with a directive such as:

List X-supermarket people

Combining the X modifiers

Suppose the creative had been listing supermarket staff from the directive

List X-staff

This could have formed a list such as:

Ex-staff, happy-staff, young-staff, angry-staff, ambitious staff, absent-staff, old-staff, future staff, injured-staff, professional-staff, hungry-staff, pregnant-staff, noisy-staff

The creative can then combine the modifying words. Example

Ex-staff and angry-staff gives ex-angry-staff

The creative could then consider this as a concept in itself or again pre-list ‘ex-angry-staff’ with a new directive:

List X-ex-angry-staff

Or use ‘ex-angry-staff’ to think of a specific person.

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