Client: Section D

Project: Flash cards

Unconnected images and/or words can spark

non-linear thought directions.

Inspiration tool. Cards, manual, box.


Perspective shifter.

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

be done!

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

good ideas.”

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

thought patterns:

Challenge assumptions:

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.


Mind map:

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

any connections.


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

things differently.


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

then think.


Fun and humor:

These are essential ingredients, especially in team settings.