Client: Section D
Project: Flash cards
Unconnected images and/or words can spark
non-linear thought directions.
Inspiration tool. Cards, manual, box.
Faced with complex, open-ended, ever-changing challenges, organizations
realize that constant, ongoing innovation is critical to stay ahead of the
competition. This is why we need to be on the lookout for new ideas that
can drive innovation, and it’s why the ability to think differently, generate
new ideas, and spark creativity within a team becomes an important skill.
You need to work actively on building and cultivating this skill, and it can
Often, though, we make the mistake of assuming that good ideas just
happen. Or worse still, we get caught in the mind trap that creativity is
an aptitude; some people have it, others don’t. Then there is the other
self-defeating belief – “I am not intelligent enough to come up with
These assumptions are rarely true. Everyone can come up with fresh, radical
ideas – you just need to learn to open your mind and think differently
1. We need to think differently.
This needs some fresh ideas.
We have got to be more creative around here.
Standard idea-generation techniques concentrate on combining or adapting
existing ideas. This can certainly generate results. But here, our focus is on
equipping you with tools that help you leap onto a totally different plane.
These approaches push your mind to forge new connections, think
differently and consider new perspectives.
A word of caution – while these techniques are extremely effective, they
will only succeed if they are backed by rich knowledge of the area you’re
working on. This means that if you are not prepared with adequate
information about the issue, you are unlikely to come up with a great
idea even by using the techniques listed here.
These techniques can be applied to spark creativity in group settings
and brainstorming sessions as well.
How to Generate New Ideas
2. Breaking Thought Patterns
All of us can tend to get stuck in certain thinking patterns. Breaking these
thought patterns can help you get your mind unstuck and generate new
ideas. There are several techniques you can use to break established
For every situation, you have a set of key assumptions. Challenging
these assumptions gives you a whole new spin on possibilities.
You want to buy a house but can’t since you assume you don’t have the
money to make a down payment on the loan. Challenge the assumption.
Sure, you don’t have cash in the bank but couldn’t you sell some of your
other assets to raise the money? Could you dip into your retirement fund?
Could you work overtime and build up the kitty in six months?
Suddenly the picture starts looking brighter.
Reword the problem:
Stating the problem differently often leads to different ideas. To reword the
problem look at the issue from different angles. “Why do we need to solve
the problem?”, “What’s the roadblock here?”, “What will happen if we don’t
solve the problem?” These questions will give you new insights. You might
come up with new ideas to solve your new problem.
In the mid 1950s, shipping companies were losing money on freighters.
They decided they needed to focus on building faster and more efficient
ships. However, the problem persisted. Then one consultant defined the
problem differently. He said the problem the industry should consider was
“how can we reduce cost?” The new problem statement generated new
ideas. All aspects of shipping, including storage of cargo and loading time,
were considered. The outcome of this shift in focus resulted in the container
ship and the roll-on/roll-off freighter.
Think in reverse:
If you feel you cannot think of anything new, try turning things upside-down.
Instead of focusing on how you could solve a problem/improve operations/
enhance a product, consider how could you create the problem/worsen
operations/downgrade the product. The reverse ideas will come flowing in.
Consider these ideas – once you’ve reversed them again – as possible
solutions for the original challenge.
3. Connect the Unconnected
Some of the best ideas seem to occur just by chance. You see something
or you hear someone, often totally unconnected to the situation you are
trying to resolve, and the penny drops in place. Newton and the apple,
Archimedes in the bath tub; examples abound.
Why does this happen? The random element provides a new stimulus
and gets our brain cells ticking. You can capitalize on this knowledge
by consciously trying to connect the unconnected.
Actively seek stimuli from unexpected places and then see if you can use
these stimuli to build a connection with your situation. Some techniques
you could use are:
Use random input:
Choose a word from the dictionary and look for novel connections
between the word and your problem.
Put a key word or phrase in the middle of the page. Write whatever
else comes in your mind on the same page. See if you can make
Pick up a picture: Consider how you can relate it to your situation.
Take an item: Ask yourself questions such as “How could this item help
in addressing the challenge?”, or “What attributes of this item could help
ussolve our challenge?”
Flash cards: Apparently unconnected images and/or words can spark
non-linear thought directions.
4. Shift Perspective
Over the years we all build a certain type of perspective and this
perspective yields a certain type of idea. If you want different ideas,
you will have to shift your perspective.
To do so:
Get someone else’s perspective:
Ask different people what they would do if faced with your challenge.
You could approach friends engaged in different kind of work, your
spouse, a nine-year old child, customers, suppliers, senior citizens,
someone from a different culture; in essence anyone who might see
Play the “If I were” game:
Ask yourself “If I were ...” how would I address this challenge?
You could be anyone: a millionaire, Donald Trump, anyone.
The idea is the person you decide to be has certain identifiable traits.
And you have to use these traits to address the challenge. For instance,
if you decide to play the millionaire, you might want to bring traits such
as flamboyance, big thinking and risk-taking when formulating an idea.
If you are Lewis Hamilton you would focus on things such as perfection,
persistence and execution detail.
5. Employ Enablers
Enablers are activities and actions that assist with, rather than directly
provoke, idea generation. They create a positive atmosphere.
Some of the enablers that can help you get your creative juices flowing are:
Belief in yourself:
Believe that you are creative, believe that ideas will come to you; positive
reinforcement helps you perform better.
Creative loafing time:
Nap, go for a walk, listen to music, play with your child, take a break from
formal idea-generating. Your mind needs the rest, and will often come up
with connections precisely when it isn’t trying to make them.
Change of environment:
Sometimes changing the setting changes your thought process.
Go to a nearby coffee shop instead of the conference room in your
office, or hold your discussion while walking together round a local park.
Shutting out distractions:
Keep your thinking space both literally and mentally clutter-free.
Shut off the Blackberry, close the door, divert your phone calls and
Fun and humor:
These are essential ingredients, especially in team settings.