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Thinking Well Outside the Box
Brains are pattern recognition systems which allow us to recognize
objects and situations very quickly. However, pattern recognition can
work against us and make us fixed in our thinking - making it difficult
to be creative. The good news is that you can use lateral thinking
techniques to break out of your old ways of thinking and boost
How to brainstorm
Brainstorming is used to develop creative solutions to a problem.
Simply focus on the problem, and come up with as many radical solutions
as you can as fast as possible.
Give yourself a chance to do some creative thinking in your daily
work. Edward de Bono coined the term "'Creative Pause": A short but
habitual break to consider other creative options.
View problems as opportunities for improvement.
Individual brainstorming may lack the dynamic a group can bring.
If you are brainstorming in a group, chair sessions tightly so that
uncreative or less secure people don't "block." Choose participants
from as wide a range of disciplines and experience as possible. Often
the only difference between creative and uncreative people is
self-perception. Challenge their perception.
Define the problem clearly and any criteria to be met. Keep focused.
No criticism, analysis or evaluation of ideas during the session. Don't choke the creative process with analysis.
Encourage an excited, uncritical attitude. Get everyone to contribute and develop ideas.
Ensure that no one train of thought is followed for too long.
Encourage development of other people's ideas, or use ideas to create new ones.
Appoint one person to note down all the ideas for later.
Examples of brainstorming techniques
Reversal is a great tool
for improving a product or a service. Simply ask the opposite of the
question you want to ask, and apply the results; e.g., "How can we
reduce customer satisfaction?" The answers may illustrate the keys to
the problem in reverse.
To use Random input,
select a random noun from the dictionary and use it as the starting
point for brainstorming, or to re-launch a session. Or try thinking of
ideas beginning with "n."
Provocation statements are
tools to make links between patterns. Make a deliberately stupid
statement in which something normally taken for granted about the
situation is not true. Then suspend judgment and use that statement to
generate ideas. Examine the consequences of the statement, what the
benefits would be, and what might convert it to a sensible solution.
Attribute listing focuses
on key attributes of the product, service or strategy you are
examining. Use each attribute as a column heading. List as many
variations of each attribute as you can. Randomly select one item from
each column, or select interesting combinations of items to create new
approaches to such attributes as market sectors, customer needs,
products and marketing.