Module: Creative Investigation

Assignment 2:Idea Generation Techniques

M.Des 1.1 Name: Harshal Desai Lecturer: Arabella Pasquette Date of Submission 12/09/2011

Word Count: 3124


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY .................................................................................................. 2 INTRODUCTION: UNDERSTANDING PROBLEMS ......................................................... 3 PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS ........................................................................................... 4 IDEA GENERATION TECHNIQUES ................................................................................ 4 DISCUSSION TECHNIQUES / BRAINSTORMING ....................................................... 5 DAYDREAMING.......................................................................................................... 7 FORCED RELATIONSHIPS ........................................................................................... 8 ATTRIBUTE LISTING AND MORPHOLOGICAL ANALYSIS ......................................... 8 CHECKLISTS ................................................................................................................. 9 OTHERS ...................................................................................................................... 10 IMPORTANCE OF METHOD AND TECHNIQUE ......................................................... 11 CONCLUSION.............................................................................................................. 13 Works Cited ................................................................................................................. 16

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Ideas have been the driving force of humanity. From a simple circular wheel carved from rock back in the stone ages to the first airplanes and telephones, innovative ideas have sparked off revolutionary changes in society. Now in this competitive world, ideas have become more important to us than actions. Companies have begun asking designers to generate solutions that meet the needs and desires of the consumer. As such, there was a need to streamline and increase the efficiency of producing and sharing ideas within teams. This gave birth to several idea generation techniques, which allowed everyone to play a part in the creative process, a role allotted strictly to designers and engineers for the last few years. Idea generation techniques meant anyone could participate in creating new ideas. It allowed people to share and build up on existing solutions, to foresee future problems, and essentially, to think big in terms of design. It brought different specializations together to create a more diverse think-tank that can tackle problems from several perspectives. This report is divided into three parts. First, we shall look into several idea generation techniques, both popular ones and the uncommon ones, question their uses and value by providing examples of products developed using the specific techniques. Second, we discuss whether idea generation methods and techniques are important in coming up with new ideas? Are they the driving factor in generating ideas? Lastly, we conclude with our personal view on idea generation techniques, along with stating which methods, if any, would we prefer to use. Towards the end we aim to achieve a better understand of the creative thinking process as a whole and how to effectively solve all issues, design or otherwise.

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It is essential to comprehend the nature of problems in order to select suitable techniques to resolve them. Problems are normally conditions where we experience uncertainty or difficulty in attaining what we want to accomplish, for example laptop malfunctions preventing you from completing your assignments or poor communication between teams reducing the efficiency of a company. According to (Drucker, 2008), there are four types of problems. 1. 2. 3. 4. Truly Generic Generic, but Unique for the individual institution Truly exceptional, truly unique Early manifestation of a new generic problem

Truly generic problems are the most common issues that come up within a person‟s work environment for instance, choices on how to maintain inventory lists. Then there are issues that seem unique to an individual but are actually quite generic. At times, a problem will be truly unique, as in unexpected for instance the way parts of Singapore were flooded during last year‟s rains, bringing traffic in certain areas to a standstill. It was a truly exceptional situation. Lastly, there are unique problems that appear frequently slipping into the generic category, for example the many issues America has with hurricanes lately. Once you have openly recognized and defined your problems, you can start searching for possible solutions using your creativity and critical thinking and finally choosing a best solution and have it implemented.

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To solve any issue, we need to have analytical and creative skills. Analytical skills require logical thinking to complete tasks like evaluation, comparison etc. It is a very engineering-oriented approach of problem solving, selecting an ideal solution from the options available by simply narrowing down the possible choices, a convergence of ideas. Critical thinking is something we use on a daily basis either consciously or subconsciously for example, calculating the chances of winning in roulette, or while shopping for fruit at the grocery store. In contrast, creative thinking is a more divergent process, using a person‟s imagination and ingenuity to generate a vast diversity of solutions. A method provides solutions that may seem often unrealistic. To be an effective problem solver, one needs to have the ability to shift between analytical thinking and creative thinking mind-set. Unfortunately, traditional education greatly encourages and develops analytical thinking, which is why there was a necessity to come up with tools to produce ideas in the work environment, commonly known as idea generation techniques.


Creative thinking involves a large amount of inventiveness and ingenuity that needs to be organised and focused using certain processes in order to channel it towards a practical solution. These processes seek to produce a variety of conceivable solutions and apply numerous techniques that inspire people to think outside the box. We ideate to improve the collective viewpoints and assets of our teams. We ideate to create fluency and flexibility in our innovation options. Idea generation techniques are a method that encourages creative actions concentrating on techniques for divergent thinking, ways of re-framing problems and so on. Some methods require groups of two or more people. There are nearly two hundred types of idea generation techniques available to promote creativity. (Creativity Techniques, 2011)

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A vital element in nearly all of these techniques is to avoid being judgemental, which means avoiding any type of evaluation. Evaluating ideas at this stage constrains the brain in making unusual and potentially valuable connections. Sometimes it is easier to come up with radical concepts when we know we are only 'playing'. As soon as our minds face a serious objective, we reject these concepts, either consciously or subconsciously, simply because they do not seem „practical‟. (The Road to a Solution) For effective idea generation we need to coerce our mind to believe it is playing a game. Taking a light-hearted approach generally suspends judgement of ideas and lets your creativity flow without restrictions. Considering there are nearly two hundred ways to make idea generation appear as if it is a game, it should be relatively easy to achieve a vast number of concepts. The key is to focus on the quantity of ideas and not on the quality right now. Let us take an in-depth look at some of the techniques.


The most common way to explore ideas is to talk about them with other people. Every individual has a unique perspective on the issue and its consequences. Even if they do not contribute significant ideas, their input might trigger new lines of thought for the rest of the group. The term often used for such group discussions is „Brainstorming‟. This technique is particularly beneficial when people wish to break out of conventional thinking styles, so they can look at a problem from a new perspective. A diverse team increases the productivity of concepts explored, allowing you a greater chance to achieve an optimal solution. It also creates a bonding experience between team members contributing to an overall positive work environment. (Brainstorming Techniques - Mindtools) Another reason why brainstorming is most popular among groups is that it allows equal opportunity for all participants to give out their ideas. In conventional groups, some participants may assert dominance over the quieter members. Others may even be scared of mockery and ridicule, preventing them to share their ideas. In contrast, brainstorming is an authorityfree environment where everyone is encouraged to participate. It is an informal method of solving problems using „lateral thinking‟, a phrase coined by Edward de Bono. Lateral thinking was extremely important for any brainstorming technique. It is simply a way of approaching problems from Page | 5

unexpected angles. A great example is Ford Motor Corporation asked Edward de Bono for advice on how to make their cars more attractive for consumers. Dr. de Bono looked at the problem from a different perspective, completely reframing it by asking how Ford can make the entire driving experience better for their customers. This new viewpoint followed a creative idea stating that Ford should buy up parking spaces all over the major city centres making them available to just Ford cars. (Sloane, 2009) There are six simple rules for an effective brainstorming session. They are as follows: 1. Do not criticize: criticism prevents people from making proposals and expressing possibilities. Any idea is valid in brainstorming. 2. Keep the process manager-free: the presence of dominant ego figures inhibit the flow of ideas from the team. 3. Time pressure: Setting a time by which the session should end keeps the pressure on, forcing generation of more ideas. 4. Avoid resolve: Do not start agreeing to an idea that looks like a potential winner during the session. Carry on generating ideas during the allotted time. Ideas can be resolved during the evaluation stage. 5. Bulk ideas: Focus on quantity, not quality. 6. Let go: Participants must not be frightened of contributing odd, crazy or wild ideas, although this does not mean participants should not take the session seriously. While group brainstorming is most effective, one can brainstorm on their own too. The benefit of this would be you are free from any inhibitions, allowing you to come up with much more ideas individually. Generally in-group sessions, people tend to focus more on what other people are saying instead of coming up with their own ideas, while brainstorming on your own means not worrying about ego clashes or distractions or waiting for your turn to speak up. However, you might not end up developing the ideas fully since there is a lack of a wider experience and skill range that would be available in a group session. (Brainstorming Techniques - Mindtools) There are several brainstorming techniques available to choose from for generating your ideas. The ever-classical mindmap where you make links to ideas using a process of association, using sticky notes to get messy ideas in order by forming clusters of similar keywords, popularly called as the scribblesay-slap technique. Koinonia, meaning spirit of fellowship is another technique suggesting people should brainstorm with others in your field, a method popularly used by Page | 6

Einstein. Greek philosopher Socrates, where he and other philosophers would sit together and debate on various issues also used this method. For an effective collaboration this technique followed a simple method of establishing dialogue, exchanging ideas, not arguing or interrupting another person, just listening carefully and clarifying your thought processes. Koinonia helps remove barriers that inhibit people from collaborating honestly, allowing ideas to flow more freely within groups. (Michalko, 2006) Starbursting, where a team member suggests a new product or idea and others bombard questions and answer them quickly. For instance, suggesting an idea for a bicycle would immediately generate questions like, who is the customer? Cyclists. What type of cyclists? Freestyle BMX cyclists who need extra support and flexibility in the bicycles, and so on. (Starbursting Brainstorming techniques from Mindtools) Other brainstorming techniques would be the Round-Robin method where everyone is given a stack of cards to write down their idea and pass it along the group for others to add their input etc. There are several brainstorming techniques available. However brainstorming itself is just one method of idea generation.


Heavily frowned upon especially in classes, being considered whimsical and unproductive and generally disregarded by all, daydreaming is in fact one of the most basic methods to generate good ideas. The term „daydream‟ automatically brings out a playful uninhibited thought process, involving just your resourcefulness and creativity to tinker around with the problem at hand. It allows a person to connect with their issue emotionally, which is valuable to generate a good idea. With a vivid imagination, manipulation of ideas is quick and effective for predicting and overcoming obstacles. Productive daydreaming focuses towards a specific goal. It does not matter if it appears like an impossible task. Many famous inventors have done so in the past and have sparked off ideas that led to lifechanging inventions, most notably, the airplane. “Daydreaming is the quintessence of invention. If the Wright brothers did not fantasize about flight, we would probably still be using the ferry.” (Self-quote)

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It is a simple method of combining to unrelated ideas to come up with something new. While it is not a strictly unique solution, it often results in a variety of combinations that are often useful in society. Currently there are a vast amount of products born out of forced relationships, for example a digital watch which includes a calculator or an mp3 player, The Swiss army knife, birthday cards with musical tunes etc.

Figure 1: Watch with mp3 player1

Majority of these ideas will not be groundbreaking discoveries; however, they are still beneficial products and generally have a potential market in society.


This is an analytical approach to identify new combinations of inventions, services or structures by identifying methods of improvement. To improve a product the physical attributes of each component within the product is noted down, every function of the component is described and examined to check if changing it will improve or damage the product. Morphological analysis is similar to forced relationships, allowing combinations not just with the individual components of the product, but with other components from different products. These techniques have been particularly successful in creating new technologies. Watch with mp3 player. Image retrieved on 09 September, 2011 from es/img_0036.jpg

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Figure 2: Black & Decker Screwdriver2

The simplest example of it would be a screwdriver, which has undergone numerous variations including an electrical filament to detect current within a circuit, magnetic tips for loose screws, multiple adjustments for variety of sizes, inbuilt compartments to carry additional screws, joint for bending screwdriver to reach odd angles etc. This method is slightly time-consuming, as it requires a thorough search of literally all possible combinations in order to get the perfect solution. (Develop creative solutions -


Simply put, they are a list of thought-provoking questions. These questions help you target your search for detailed information and stimulate ideas at the same time. People can apply the questioning on ideas and products already developed to come up with new concepts.

Black & Decker Screwdriver. Image retrieved on 12 September 2011 from

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A popular example, the „checklist for new ideas‟ from (Osborn, 1957) consisted of a series of questions under specific that would be asked to enquire about a product or concept. The headers included : put to other uses? Adaptable? Magnify? Minify? Substitute? Rearrange? Reverse? And so on. Questions under the rearrange heading would probably be: rearrange layout? Rearrange sequence? New patterns? And so on. SCAMPER, a technique developed by Bob Eberie, is a well-known checklist helping you think of changes that you can make on existing products. SCAMPER is an acronym for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Reverse. Checklists are often quite flexible and useful when people are stuck with a particular problem (The Road to a Solution)


Several techniques are available for idea generation, such as visualization, which involves think of problems visually in order to better understand the issue. The incubation & illumination process, where you take a break from a problem you are stuck on, focusing on something completely different while your mind continues to work on the idea subconsciously. This develops into a period of illumination where you suddenly get a variety of solutions and you quickly write them down, developing new parallel lines of thought. There are virtually infinite amounts of idea generation techniques. Deciding on a specific method is sorted out according to the type of problems you are tackling and/or what solutions are you trying to accomplish. Although some techniques may appear irrational and time-consuming, it will take practice to make the techniques less mechanical and more intuitive. (The Road to a Solution)

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Idea generation techniques require a certain degree of skill in order to produce innovative solutions effectively. As mentioned earlier, with the vast amount of idea generation techniques, it will take practice of several ideas in multiple scenarios before being able to select an ideal method intuitively. In addition, certain techniques require practice to perfect their idea generation process, especially when it comes to brainstorming sessions where one must learn how to keep the momentum going without straying too far from the task. However, are methods and techniques important in actually coming up with new ideas?

The answer is No, not exactly. Idea generation techniques do help in coming up with new creative solutions, however they are merely methods to arrange and fine-tune the concepts. Idea generation techniques are just a process used to sort and develop ideas so it is easier to implement the next step in the creative process, which is evaluating them. However, what really creates new ideas is inspiration. Idea generation techniques often streamline and build up on inspiration pre-existing within the participants, although without the initial inspiration, the idea generation process would not even begin. Inspiration is essential for any creative activity. It is the key to unlock new exciting concepts and the best part is the sources of inspiration exist all around us. Inspiration can be derived from anywhere, both from obvious and unexpected sources like magazines, music, literature, or from crossreferencing the famous artists of yesteryear with modern contemporary lifestyles. One could even be inspired by observing other creative disciplines such as painting, sculptures, architectures, photography etc. In addition, you cannot teach someone to get inspired. A natural trait that develops on its own; inspiration is your mind‟s frame of reference. (Hertzberger, 2005) summed up inspiration as “Everything that is absorbed and registered in your mind adds to the collection of ideas stored in the Page | 11

memory, a sort of library that you can consult whenever a problem arises. So essentially, the more you have seen, experienced and absorbed, the more points of reference you will have to decide which direction to take: your frame of reference expands” Method and technique will help you develop on your idea, but it seldom sparks the inspiration process. Even specific techniques like forced association would reach a dead end if you decide to combine, say, lava lamps and tube lights. Without the spark of inspiration, you are left juggling the two products in your head without any results.

To sum it up, “If we are to compare the creativity process to a chemistry experiment, then inspiration would be the raw materials and idea generation would be the Bunsen burner” (self-quote)

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If asked which techniques we prefer to use, our reply would be all of them. As stated, it depends on the type of problem, and quite often, our choice would include using multiple techniques to achieve our desired goal. However, if one frames the question as which techniques we prefer to use to generate ideas, our answer changes to none. To us, the term „idea-generation techniques‟ is a misnomer. The notion of using methods and techniques to generate ideas is itself flawed, because you cannot generate true ideas. The person who invented the wheel did not use mind maps to chart out a probable solution to transport food and supplies from one place to another. Ideas are borne out of necessity, and inspiration is what helps develop the ideas. In this reference, „idea-generation‟ techniques are in fact, „ideaMANAGEMENT‟ techniques.

Idea generation techniques is a business term, simply born in an attempt to manage creation of new concepts. As soon as you use it as a tool to actually create ideas, the system is flawed because then you are using an analytical process to determine a solution. We already established that good ideas are ones that use both the analytical side and creative side of your brain. What is worse is most companies tend to fall back on the common idea generation techniques every time there is need to solve a problem. More often, mindmaps and sticky notes are used without rhyme or reason and while they may be effective, they fall short compared to true idea generation. True idea generation comes from a person‟s own inspiration. It is the inherent curiosity of an individual to keep asking questions. Einstein had stated that the most important thing a person can do is not stop questioning. ( An individual must also be open to new rationales and arguments, to keep evolving and not fall back on old concepts. It is essentially a child-like approach to the world, observing and learning, adapting quickly, and conjuring up wildly imaginative ideas. In contrast to brainstorming, it also involves questioning ideas there and then to weed out the probably bad ideas instead of just letting the process continue and weeding them out in Page | 13

the evaluation stage. Contrary to popular belief, there ARE bad ideas, and by not eliminating them, all you do is increase your workload for the next stage. Kids are quite brutal in that aspect, quickly deciding which idea suits best and which does not. As adults however, we do learn to save the ideas, even the bad ones on the off chance that they might spark new good ideas for later.

Many people lose this child-like perspective and thus require „ideageneration techniques‟ to make them view the problem of a kid‟s eyes. All through the various processes, we encountered a familiar phrase, “to make the process fun and playful”. We believe you do not need a technique to achieve this mind-set. It is already embedded within you, suppressed by your own inhibitions. While certain people eventually start adapting to the techniques, learning to use them intuitively, one cannot make a claim stating it was techniques that helped you develop this frame of mind. It already exists within each of us from our childhood years. We, like some people, managed to retain it and thus do not need idea generation techniques to come up with ideas. However, this does not mean we do not use them. Idea-management techniques are particularly helpful in organizing errant ideas to piece together a clearer view of a bigger picture. They are different ways of attacking a puzzle, either solving it linearly, systematically, or starting at various points and ultimately conforming together to one solid idea.

While brainstorming and other tools are useful to us, they are not a necessity. We do not have a need to fall back on „techniques‟ or guidelines in order to create new ideas. By having a child‟s outlook on life, we naturally explore about the problems presented to us, and ones that are hidden away. If more and more people start referring to these „tools‟ as „techniques‟, then it will lead to misinterpretation where people will solely start resorting to idea generation to come up with new concepts. One must keep in mind, like all techniques, they will eventually stop being effective.

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In the strictest sense, for us, the true idea generation tool is our mind. What matters is how we implement the ideas. The world is our inspiration, and we can achieve ideas from these business techniques like mindmaps, or from playing board games like scrabble where a word might spark off a wave of ideas, to even something seemingly mundane as washing your hair.

After all, “Everyone who's ever taken a shower has an idea. It's the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference” (

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WORKS CITED Creativity Techniques. (2011, June 14). Retrieved September 12, 2011, from Brainstorming Techniques - Mindtools. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2011, from (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2011, from Develop creative solutions - (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2011, from Drucker, P. (2008). The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker's Essential Writings on Management. Harper Paperbacks. Hertzberger, H. (2005). Lessons for Students in Architecture. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers. Michalko, M. (2006). Creative Thinking Technique: Koinonia. Retrieved September 12, 2011, from Osborn, A. (1957). Checklist for New Ideas. In A. Osborn, Applied Imagination. New York: Charles Scribner & Sons. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2011, from

Sloane, P. (2009, March 03). How To Think What Nobody Else Thinks. Retrieved September 12, 2011, from Starbursting - Brainstorming techniques from Mindtools. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2011, from The Road to a Solution. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2011, from

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