Idea Generator

In his book, New Directions in Group Communications, Lawrence Frey lists these useful idea-generators for collaborative environments…try one this week:

  • ANALOGY STORM – The specific problem or the results of a previous brainstorming session are set aside to incubate while the group generates a series of analogies to the problem.
  • BRAINSTORMING – Designed to generate ideas and promote creativity by reducing premature evaluation, using a facilitator to enforce four rules (no criticism, quantity is desired, the wilder the idea the better, and piggybacking on other ideas is encouraged.)
  • BRAINWRITING – Group members generate ideas silently and in writing on index cards, with each member writing down one idea per card and passing it on to stimulate new ideas for the next person; members write down on a separate card any new ideas suggested.
  • BUG LIST – Group members are asked to identify things that irritate them about a situation, issue or problem, and the generated individual lists are then consolidated to identify the bugs common to most members; the group then brainstorms solutions to each bug.
  • BUZZ GROUPS – Members are divided into smaller groups for brief periods during a meeting to generate ideas on the same issue that subsequently are analyzed by the entire group.
  • COLECTIVE NOTEBOOK – Idea-generation method in which members do not meet face-to-face but individually generate ideas over an extended period of time. A notebook with a particular problem statement is given to each member, who writes down one idea every day for a month, with a coordinator summarizing and sharing the ideas with all members at the end of a designated period of time.
  • CONSENSUE MAPPING – Uses individual cards from group members that are sorted into various classifications to build a solution model in map form. After an extensive list of ideas has been generated, members individually write their ideas about clusters and categories that are then presented in map form as a starting point for discussion and revision. Ensures that a large number of diverse ideas are generated in a balanced fashion and, thereby, extends other idea-generating methods.
  • CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING – Contains some components of rational problem solving (data gathering, problem definition, and solution generation and evaluation) but differs by motivating members’ efforts through the process of allowing for incubation phases when task work ceases, designating specific imagination phases, and focusing attention on the social dimensions of a group.
  • CRYSTAL BALL – Stimulates people’s imaginations and helps task groups stay on the cutting edge by putting the future in a crystal ball, leaping ahead a few months or years, and asking group members to imagine new possibilities, outcomes, targets, or conditions for a desired goal.
  • EXCURSION – Uses imaginative scenarios to stimulate ideas, encourage group members to think in contextual terms, and adopt “what if” ideation generation.
  • FIVE W’s AND H – The Who, What, Where, When, and Why questions from journalists are combined with the How question. Problems are redefined by asking “In what ways might…?” for each of “W” categories. These answers are used to generate problem redefinitions, and judgment is withheld until all suggestions are recorded. The new definition that best reflects the problem is then selected.
  • IDEA NEEDLERS – A list of questions groups can use to gain a different perspective to view a problem (e.g., Why does it have this shape? What if this were turned inside out? Where else can this be done? What if the order were changed?)
  • IDEALS METHOD – Combines solution generation with solution implementation, by having a group generate ideas about the function of the solution, then gather information, design the solution, and evaluate its effectiveness.
  • IDEA WRITING – A four-step procedure for exploring the meaning of generated ideas in writing. A group is split into subgroups; each member writes ideas to a stimulus question; forms are shared for other members’ written reactions; and each member reads reactions to his or her initial response, followed by discussion.
  • IMAGINARY WORLD – An association/images technique that builds on people’s natural inclinations to associate things. Group members are asked to select a solution to a problem, expressed in the form of a wish. The group then imagines a world remote from the world of the problem and gives associations and images that characterize the remote world. The group then relates the generated list of associations and images of that imagined remote world to the actual world of the problem, developing new associations and images and applying them in a more realistic way without diluting the innovations.
  • LATERAL THINKING – A non-sequential method of discussion (based on divergent rather than convergent thinking) that is generative and encourages topic change for the sake of moving, does not require correctness at any stage, and welcomes chance intrusions, using variable categories, labels, or classifications.
  • LEFT-RIGHT BRAIN ALTERNATION – The objective is to use a whole-brain approach to attack a problem or examine an opportunity. Left-brain/right-brain functions are listed to remind members of the differences (i.e., left brain includes speaking, analyzing, and judging; right brain includes seeing things holistically, understanding analogies, providing insight, and synthesizing ideas). The problem is explored by alternately choosing possible solutions from the left brain and the right brain.
  • LION’S DEN – Ongoing group members (lions) invite subgroups (lambs) in an organization to attend weekly meetings. Lambs draw a picture of their problem on a flip chart and are given 5 minutes to both explain the problem and present a challenge, and another 5 minutes to state solutions already generated. For the next 20 minutes, the lions actively brainstorm ideas (lambs listen), although the lambs ultimately choose their own solutions.
  • LOTUS BLOSSOM – A diagram method that functions as a visual brainstorm, in which each member is given a problem written in the center and thinks of related ideas that are written in surrounding circles, and then generates new ideas to the original problem until the diagram is complete.
  • MANIPULATIVE VERBS – Designed to decrease the chances of overlooking solutions, an extensive list of verbs (e.g., multiply, divide, eliminate, invert, rotate, or substitute) is generated an each verb is then applied in group discussion against certain designated aspects of the problem.
  • MESS FINDING – A “mess” might be any selected negative or positive situation. Outcomes for the mess are generated by constructing a list of “Wouldn’t is be nice if” questions. Obstacles are generated by listing “Wouldn’t it be awful if” questions. New concerns and opportunities are identified for further development. Can be used as the initial stage of creative problem solving or as a stand-alone technique.
  • MIND MAPPING – A group chooses a problem phrase and writes it in the center of a large sheet as a nucleus bubble. The “map” builds naturally as associative spin-off words are drawn with connecting lines and circles around the nucleus bubble, and ideas cluster of trigger other thoughts. A facilitator can draw the map with group input or all members can draw, Discussion and judgment are withheld until the map is complete.
  • MORPHOLOGICAL ANALYSIS – Encourages new ideas by breaking a problem into its major parts, listing all possible topics under each heading and then randomly combining these topics to generate new solutions by forcing together elements that seem unrelated.
  • OBJECT STIMULATION – Designed to present a different perspective on a problem, using unrelated stimuli objects with no apparent relation to the problem. A list of objects unrelated to the problem is generated; one object is selected and described in detail; each description is used as a stimulus to generate ideas, with all ideas written down; and rounds are repeated for other objects.
  • ORGANIZED RANDOM SEARCH – Group members are encouraged to rethink a problem by breaking it into a variety of sub-categories or parts, and the newly created individual subdivisions are then used as starting points for developing new ideas.
  • PICTURE TOUR – A photographic journey of a problem is taken, as group members view multiple slides on a screen, (of action, people, scenery, and/or objects connected with the problem). Members extract something from each picture that intrigues them or that seems to be an essential feature, and all observations are posted and used to stimulate new solution ideas.
  • PROBLEM REVERSAL – The problem is written down in a question format, and a verb is identified. The meaning of that verb is reversed, restating the problem into a second question format; answers to this reversed problem are generated and those answers are then reversed to fit the original problem-question.
  • PROGRESSIVE ABSTRACTION – Generates alternative problem definitions by moving through progressively higher levels of problem abstraction until a satisfactory definition is achieved. As the problem is systematically enlarged, new definitions emerge and possible solutions are then identified.
  • REVERSE BRAINSTORMING – Uses the same rules of brainstorming, but group members generate ideas or solutions that would make the problem worse, and after generating a list, they consider implications of doing the opposite.
  • ROLE STORMING – Each group member is asked to assume the role of various people who may be affected by or who may affect the problem and the group then brainstorms the problem from these persons’ points of view.
  • SEMANTIC INTUITION – Reverses the normal creative procedure by first creating a name, then producing an idea on the basis of it; two sets of words related to major problem elements are generated, followed by combining two words from each set, using this new combination to generate new ideas, and repeating the process as often as desired.
  • SIX THINKING HATS – Group members are encouraged to visualize themselves wearing various colored hats at various points during the group’s discussion, which encourages novel thinking and comments by directing attention to new aspects of problems. Hat colors relate to mental function (white is concerned with facts and figures; red, emotional views; black, negative aspects; yellow, positive possibilities; green, creativity and new ideas; and blue, control of thinking and focus).
  • SYNECTICS – Uses diverse-membership groups, with a leader guiding discussion through flexible stages. An explanation of the problem is given by an expert, initial suggestions are proposed, dream solutions are generated, and then the leader poses questions to stimulate new thinking, followed by an attempted force-fit of the generated creative ideas to the problem.
  • VISIONING – Idea-generation method in which group members are guided to focus their energy on a particular desired end state, imagining specific details, their possible effects, and how such an end state might actually function.
  • WILDES IDEA – Used when an impasse has been reached in problem solving to jog members out of their mind-set. Group members are asked to state their wildest ideas, the group is asked to build on each idea by exploring variations or extrapolations, and the facilitator then asks the group to find practical uses for every wild idea.
  • WISHFUL THINKING – Loosens analytical thinking by including a larger set of alternatives than currently imagined. Alternative solutions to the problem are stated in the form of a fantasy, such as “I wish that we could…” or “What would happen if we tried…” and then each wishful statement is converted to a more practical one, such as “Assuming that we could get around that…” or “It may be possible to meet our wish, but first we would have to…”

~ by Dave Smith on June 9, 2008.

2 Responses to “Idea Generator”

  1. Try this one on for size too: Molecular Thinking. Uses free association of words, concepts and phrases that are related to a brainstorm (but not yet full ideas) to spur ideation.

  2. Thanks for the contribution Edward. A very innovative idea on your part with some very useful tools found on the web site. Appreciate your desire to spread the wealth.

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