Ideation Techniques for Generating New Ideas (Part 1 of 3)


Ideation Techniques Part 1

“No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.” ? Victor Hugo

Generating new ideas is art … and science.

You can generate new ideas with skill if you have techniques.

Believe it or not, there are specific techniques for generating new ideas that anyone can learn.

You don’t have to be an egg-head to come up with egg-cellent ideas.

Twist Ideas that Move Mountains

It’s all in the twist, and you can learn how to twist things into ideas that move mountains.

In the book, THINKERTOYS, Michael Michalko presents sets of techniques for generating ideas.

In this post, I’ll cover the Group A linear techniques. The Group A linear techniques reorganize known information in different ways by listing, dividing, combining, or manipulating it to give you new entry points for solving problems.

Technique #1: False Faces (Reversal)

We make assumptions all the time.  It’s how the world goes round.  But our assumptions can get in the way of creating new ideas and finding our breakthroughs.

The idea behind False Faces is to find ideas by reversing conventional assumptions.

Here are the steps in the process according to Michalko:

  1. State your challenge.
  2. List your assumptions.
  3. Challenge your fundamental assumptions.
  4. Reverse each assumption.  Write down the opposite of each one.
  5. Record differing viewpoints that might prove useful to you.
  6. Ask yourself how to accomplish each reversal.  List as many useful viewpoints and ideas as you can.

Technique #2: Slice and Dice (Attribute listing)

How do you invent a better screwdriver?  Focus on each specific attribute and try to improve it.  For each attribute ask “How else can this be accomplished?” or “Why does this have to be this way?”

Slice and Dice is a technique for generating new ideas based on the attributes of whatever you are evaluating.

Here are the steps to performing Slice and Dice according to Michalko:

  1. State your challenge.
  2. Analyze the challenge and list as many attributes as you can.
  3. Take each attribute, one at a time, and try to think of ways to change or improve it.  Ask, “How else can this be accomplished?” and “Why does this have to be this way?”
  4. Strive to make your thinking both fluent and flexible.

Technique #3: Cherry Split (Fractionism)

The idea behind Cherry Split is to get ideas by dividing a challenge into two or more components and then reassemble them in new and different ways.

Here are the steps to performing Cherry Split according to Michalko:

  1. State the essence of your challenge in two words.  For instance, if your challenge is ‘In what ways might I improve my sales of Canon copiers?’, the two-word phrase that captures the essence of your challenge is ‘Selling copiers.’  In the example that follows, the challenge is ‘In what ways might we improve the methodology of picking cherries?’; the two-word phrase is ‘Cherry picking.’
  2. Split the challenge into two separate units.
  3. Split each attribute into two more attributes.  For instance, “cherry” is split into ‘’delicate” and “separate””,” “picking” is split into “remove” and “transport.”
  4. Continue splitting the attributes until you feel that you have enough to work with.
  5. Examine each attribute for ideas.  The wonder of this method is that big ideas can swell in the most insignificant attribute just as the flavor of an entire ocean is contained in one drop.
  6. Try reassembling the attributes.New combinations can include new perspectives and new ideas.

Technique #4: Think Bubbles (Mind mapping)

Think Bubbles is a graphic way to organize your thoughts.  It creates a physical picture of the way your mind blueprints a challenge.

The big idea here is to map your thoughts so you can spark new ideas.

Here are the steps according to Michalko:

  1. Organization.   You can make your map of Think Bubbles as simple or as complex as you want.
  2. Key words.  Ignore all irrelevant words and phrases and concentrate only on expressing the essentials, and what associations these “essences” excite in your mind.
  3. Association.  Make connections, links, and relationships between seemingly isolated and unconnected pieces of information.  These connections open the door to more possibilities.  You can feel free to make any association you wish, without worrying whether or not others will understand you.
  4. Clustering.  The map’s organization comes close to the way your mind clusters concepts, making the mapped information more accessible to the brain.  Once your ideas are clustered, try to adopt the viewpoint of a critic seeing the ideas for the first time.
  5. Conscious involvement.   Making the map requires you to concentrate on your challenge, which helps get information about it transferred from short-term to long-term memory.

Technique #5: SCAMPER (Questions)

The SCAMPER technique is a way to manipulate what exists into something different.

Here are the steps to perform SCAMPER according to Michalko:

  1. Isolate the challenge or subject you want to think about.
  2. Ask SCAMPER questions about each step of the challenge or subject and see what new ideas merge.

The SCAMPER checklist is:

  • Substitute something.
  • Combine it with something else.
  • Adapt something to it.
  • Modify or Magnify it.
  • Put it to some other use.
  • Eliminate something.
  • Revers or Rearrange it.

Here is a sample of applying SCAMPER questions to the challenge of “prospecting”:

  1. What procedure can I Substitute for my current one?
  2. How can I Combine prospecting with some other procedure?
  3. What can I Adapt or copy from someone else’s prospecting methods?
  4. How can I Modify or alter the way I prospect?
  5. What can I Magnify or add to the way I prospect?
  6. How can I Put my prospecting to other uses?
  7. What can I Eliminate from the way I prospect?
  8. What is the Revers of prospecting?
  9. What Rearrangement of prospecting procedures might be better?

Key Take Aways

Here are my key take aways:

  • I like how False Faces helps you to challenge your assumptions.
  • Slice and dice is a great way to walk the attributes and look for improvement opportunities an attribute at a time.
  • I like how Cherry Split helps you break problems down in a systematic way. It’s easy to look at the problem in new ways.
  • In SCAMPER, I like the simplistic but effective idea generation framework of questions.

Note that you can find more information on how to generate new ideas at Michael Michalko’s site at CreativeThinking.Net.

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Ideation Techniques for Generating New Ideas (Part 2 of 3)

Ideation Techniques for Generating New Ideas (Part 3 of 3)

Intuitive Ideation Techniques


Image by Joao Brito.