Monday, October 29, 2007

Harvesting the "Hidden" Ideas in Society

I started the following challenge on Imagination Club:

There is a saying "There is a book in everyone". It's also often true that there is "A good idea in everyone". I often speak to people and they tell me that they have a good idea -- often an idea that won't make money for them or anyone else -- but could change the world for the better. Often they add that they don't know what to do about it to get it "out there".

Here's the challenge:

How can we harvest and organise these "hidden" ideas?

and then perhaps...

How could we get some actualised?

It's worth bearing in mind that I'm thinking of an ordinary "person in the street" -- by that I mean someone who probably doesn't think about actively using their creativity or joining imagination clubs! :)

You can join Imagination Club here

and read the club archives here

I've toyed with idea of attempting to find a way to harvest these "hidden" ideas through some kind of project involving the Global Ideas Bank but it will be interesting to see what ideas the Imagination Club members come up with!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Flip-flop Technique for Creating Ideas and Fresh, Relevant Brainstorming Challenges

This flip-flop technique can quickly generate a list of ideas and fresh, relevant brainstorm challenges. There are three key stages:

1) I create (or find an existing) brainstorm challenge
2) I create an idea for that challenge
3) (The most important stage) I create a hindsight-brainstorm: that is, I look at the idea created at stage 2 and ask "If a brainstorm challenge had created this idea, what could that brainstorm challenge have been? How would it have been worded?"


Say, for example, I am the boss of a pizza shop and I want to improve my business. I can set the brainstorm challenge:

How can I improve my pizza shop?

It's not too difficult to create an idea for this. Maybe:

Have a varied menu

Now for the hindsight-brainstorm: I ask myself: What brainstorm challenge could've created that idea? Maybe:

How can I attract customers?

The cycle continues and for this I create the idea:

Provide small samples of pizzas

Hindsight-brainstorm: What brainstorm could have created this idea? Maybe:

How can I get people to try my pizzas?

Idea: Go to local sporting events and open a stall with samples

Hindsight-brainstorm: How can I use local sporting events to attract customers?

Idea: Put advertising posters at local sports grounds

Hindsight-brainstorm: How can I use local sports grounds to promote my pizzas?

Idea: Offer a catering service for events/functions held at the sports ground

Problems and possibilities

Problem: Can't think of any ideas?

If my brainstorm challenge is:

How can I make my pizza menu interesting?

and I can't think of any ideas, I can simply ask the question: In what ways is the pizza menu already interesting? One possibility could be:

It has lots of striking colours

which expressed as an idea reads:

Add lots of colour to make the menu more appealing

From this point I can either build on that idea and increase the degree (add yet more colours (maybe to appeal to children?) to the menu) or create a hindsight-brainstorm such as:

What would make my menus more appealing?

Problem: Can't create a hindsight-brainstorm?

If I'm struggling to think of a hindsight-brainstorm for any idea, I can choose one of Kipling's six honest serving men -- what, who, when, where, why, how (here's a mnemonic) -- and pick one random word from the idea to see if I can combine the two to construct a hindsight-brainstorm challenge.

For example, if my idea is:

Provide small samples of pizzas

My hindsight-brainstorms could be (among many options)

(What & pizza) = what can I do with pizzas to attract new customers?
(Who can't create a hindsight-brainstorm for this idea)
(When doesn't work)
(Where doesn't work)
(Why & pizza) = why would I cut a pizza into small pieces?
(How & small) = how can I give customers a sample or "small taste" of my products?

Possibility: Keeping one challenge or idea

Of course, at any stage I can decide to keep using one hindsight-brainstorm challenge and continue creating ideas. If the brainstorm is: How can I use local sporting events to attract customers? My ideas could include:

Sponsor a local sporting event
Start a new sports event -- the "pizza shop cup"!
Put advertising at local sports events
Offer discounts to sports fans who can provide a ticket from the sports event

And I can create multiple hindsight-brainstorms from one idea. If my idea is: attract passers-by by putting special offers in the window, my hindsight-brainstorms could include:

Where can I advertise special offers?
Who would be attracted by special offers in the window?
How can I target passers-by?
Why would I be putting something in the window?


I started this game/exercise in BrainReactions' Brainstorming Tool :

Flip-Flop Brainstorming Challenges/Ideas: How Can I Improve My Creativity?

Will be interesting to see how it pans out!

Monday, October 22, 2007

More Story-Writing for Brainstorming Ideas and a Possible Method

I've been posting lately about my thoughts on creating ideas for brainstorms by writing stories (and dialogue). One approach I'd like to pursue involves writing a fictional brainstorm, with dialogue created for each of the brainstorm participants.

One technique I've developed has led to an interesting idea that could, perhaps, increase the output of group brainstorms. With this story-writing technique I choose a character from the fictional brainstorm and imagine that the character is reflecting on the brainstorm at some date in the future. (There are some specific methods I've developed to create the dialogue but I'll describe them in another post in the future). So, for example, a character - say, Dan - reflects:

The first ten minutes of that brainstorm had a lot of stopping!

This functions as a thought experiment, and it led to two ideas:

1) (An obvious idea) Brainstorms have frequent breaks

2) An individual calls "Stop!" at random intervals.

My thoughts on the second idea are: what if...the "stopper" called for a stop when a participant was half way through calling out an idea? What if...the other participants tried to complete the idea? What if...a separate team of brainstormers could read the output of a brainstorm but could only see obscured versions of each of the ideas -- some words would be omitted from either the beginning or the end of the ideas, and the second team of brainstormers would have to complete the ideas? Would they generate new ideas by doing this?

Something like this could be done for a brainstorming tool like BrainReactions' Brainstorming Tool: Instead of accessing a brainstorm normally, you could also have the option to view an obscured version, where words would be omitted from the existing ideas.

Here are some examples of "creative omissions" using some ideas from last week's live brainstorm about plastic bag recycling:

With words omitted from the end of ideas

Use them as...

Grind them up and use them...

Have special lectures or sessions in...

lower the quality of plastic bags to...

Devise machines that...

With words omitted from the beginning of ideas

...that were stuffed with old bags?

...using plastic bags of different colors. raise awareness about the waste.

...use it when you go grocery shopping next time any outdoor park area

ThinkCube Competition

Kes Sampanthar of MetaMemes started a competition on BrainReactions' BrainStorming Tool:

Innovation Competition: How can you promote / market a new innovative product?

Generate ideas to promote and market a new innovation product, ThinkCube. More information - - Ideas are specific and actionable - Ideas require minimal budget End Date: 10/19/2007

Glitter and I were awarded joint first place. My idea was:

Become a facilitator for live brainstorms on BrainReactions - or in a chat room or a facility on your own site - and, if possible, use the ThinkCube as a guide to aid you in prompting participants. Have a different challenge each week. Log all the best ideas on your website.

and Glitter's was:

Donate ThinkCube to non-profit organizations to help them develop innovative ideas.

In this post on the MetaMemes blog, Kes posts his final shortlist and the two ideas that Sue Sampanthar selected as the winners. Kes goes on to say that he'll be starting the brainstorm I suggested in the next couple of weeks and also starting a brainstorm to select a problem for the brainstorm to address. I'll post news about these events on this blog when I get it.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Can you think of different "angles of attack" for this brainstorm?

I started the following Brainstorm on BrainReactions' Brainstorming Tool:

Can you think of different "angles of attack" for this brainstorm?

based on the brainstorm:

What would be a unique name for a new carwash business?

Obviously the initial approach is to directly make a suggestion for a name. But there are other approaches such as "consult a marketing expert" or "look at existing names for carwash businesses in Yellow Pages for inspiration".

Eventually I'm hoping that somehow I will be able to devise a system/strategy to generate many different ways to approach and solve any problem. Please let me know if you have any thoughts on how this could be done.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Story-Writing Used in a Brainstorm and Generating Fresh Brainstorm Topics

In this post I showed how "going into story" can help create ideas for a brainstorm. Here I use that approach again and introduce a new technique that can suggest fresh brainstorm topics. For this post I'll use the following brainstorm:

What would be a unique name for a new carwash business?
Initially this will be a "touchless" carwash, but future plans will include detailing, car care products and other high end features that will make this business the destination for car enthusiasts that really care for their investment.

To "go into story" I set up a simple scenario around the challenge. I'll use this: a man drives his car into the carwash business and the carwash owner starts a conversation.

Again I use a random word and add either an exclamation mark or question mark to suggest a little flavour for my dialogue. The random word is ten

Owner: The sign with the name of my garage is ten metres long!

This may or may not be a good idea, but here's where the new technique comes in: I ask myself : if that idea had been a product of a brainstorm, what could the title of that brainstorm be? Here's a possibility

How can I make the name (or logo) of my business attract attention?

This creates a different direction in addition to the original challenge. I call this technique the hindsight-brainstorm.

Here's another example. The scenario is the same and the random word for my dialogue is mark:

Owner: Can you give the name of my business a mark out of ten?
Driver: Zero!
Owner: I'll change it!

So the idea created here is: ask customers to rate my company name. I can create a hindsight-brainstorm that could have originated such an idea. Maybe:

How can I get constructive feedback on my business from customers?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

100 Tips for Improving Your Creativity

I posted the following challenge on BrainReactions' Brainstorming Tool:

100 Tips For Improving Your Creativity

I thought it would be interesting to ask BR Tool users for their creativity tips. Any input is welcome - be it favourite techniques, authors, websites, attitudes you think are essential for creative thinking, etc.

We're currently up to 31 so please jump in and let us know your favourites!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Live Brainstorm on BrainReactions today

A live brainstorm will be taking place today on BrainReactions' Brainstorming Tool at 4pm CST (21.00 GMT) today. Here's the challenge:

How can plastic grocery bags be creatively reduced, reused, or recycled?

These littering bags waste petroleum and aren't very biodegradable. How can they be minimized or utilized better? What are creative ways to reuse them? ALL CAN JOIN US HERE AT 4pm CST (21:00 GMT) ON WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 10 TO BRAINSTORM THIS LIVE!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Bloggers Unite to Find Missing Persons

I've just had the following idea published on the Global Ideas Bank:

Bloggers Unite To Find Missing Persons

I'd like to pursue the idea and see if I can get it up and running; I'll make some preliminary enquiries. I also started a brainstorm about it on BrainReactions' Brainstorming Tool:

What do you think of this idea? Is it doable? Is it worth doing?

Jump in if you have any thoughts. Here's the text of the idea:

The Problem:

Making the public aware of missing persons. Keeping level of awareness high.

The Social Invention:

Blogs could be used to display photographs of missing children and people.

A website could be started that makes a code available that all bloggers can post into their blogger code. This code would result in the blog displaying a photograph of the missing person (probably next to the list of links), plus a phone number or email address to contact if the blog's visitors recognise the person. A different missing person could feature each week, and every blog participating in the scheme would display the same photograph.

A different code could be produced for each country, so that, for example, a UK blog would display a photograph of a person missing in the UK, etc. Bloggers could also have the option to post the code within a post on their own blog so that the blog’s visitors can use the code to create a display for their their own blogs. For those who would like to be more involved in the scheme, ready-made blog posts could be made available that can be copy and pasted to quickly create a new blog post. The aim of this post would be to provide more information about the missing person.

In the States there is a well-known scheme where photographs of missing children appear on milk cartons. However, this "blog for missing people" scheme would allow people to take a more active role by posting missing person information on their blogs.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Brainstorming Challenge aided by a Switch to Story-writing

I've found that some techniques I've developed for my fiction project are proving useful for creating ideas for brainstorming/creative challenges.

My approach -- once I've found a challenge -- involves creating a simple scenario of a story (that involves the challenge) and then adding some simple dialogue created with some dialogue techniques I've devised.

I'll use the following challenge (from BrainReactions' Brainstorming Tool) :

Describe the "eco" parking lot (Don't it always seem to go That you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. (Joni Mitchell) What can we do to turn the parking lot back into paradise?)

Into a Story

Stepping "into story" helps me to attack a brainstorming challenge from a different angle. My first step is to set up a simple scenario. In this case, I opt to imagine that a driver has just driven his car into the car park and is approached by the car park attendant.

Simple Dialogue

I'll create some simple dialogue. To do this I use a random word -- usually of one syllable -- and then add either a question mark (obviously to indicate a question) or an exclamation mark (to indicate either an exclamation or an order). So, with the parking attendant initiating the dialogue, with the random word "not" and an exclamation mark added I get:

Parking Attendant: Not!

The aim at this point is to ask myself what meaning I would infer from this utterance if I was in the position of the driver. Maybe:

Attendant: You're not parking here!

To carry on with the story, I can add more dialogue and -- bearing in mind that this is a challenge about the eco car park -- see if any ideas can be generated.

Attendant: You're not parking here!

Driver: Why not?

Attendant: Wrong car!

Why would this be the wrong car? This thought lead to the idea that maybe the eco car park could ban any "gas guzzling" vehicles or vehicles over a certain size. Or, maybe the eco car park could offer lower charges for smaller vehicles?

Another example

With the same situation, the random word "mouse" and an added question mark, I get:

Attendant: Mouse?

What meaning would I infer if I was in the position of the driver? Maybe:

Attendant: Have you got a mouse in your car?

As this is (perhaps) a little strange I can make it more general:

Attendant: Have you got any extra passengers?

Without any further dialogue created, this gave me the idea that discounts could be offered for drivers who carpool.

So, three new ideas have been generated there. Nothing world changing, but it's three new ideas I didn't have ten minutes ago! I'll add them to the challenge on the Brainstorming Tool.


The key points are that I "step into story" -- a simple story scenario is generated about a brainstorm challenge -- and the simplest of dialogue is created with an added "!" or "?" to add a little flavour to the dialogue. I then see if the developments suggest any new ideas.

Hopefully this is just a first look into how creating stories (and developing techniques for writing the stories) can suggest ideas for brainstorming/creative challenges.