Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Want more creative ideas?

Want more creative ideas? Perhaps you want to exercise more creativity in solving problems in your work, or at home. Maybe you just like the thought of being the one with the most interesting ideas the next time you are with a group of friends. Either way, you can quickly generate creative ideas by using a few simple techniques, starting with the following.

1. Change the size of things.

Ask how things could be bigger or smaller and what the advantages would be. How could a refrigerator be smaller, and how would that be useful? Maybe a small, high-power, countertop drink cooler? Put a can of soda in it for a minute, and it's icy cold.

2. Consider opposites.

Suppose that instead of being bad for your teeth, candy was actually good for them? Could a candy be developed that prevented tooth decay and perhaps even strengthened teeth? Suppose exercise wasn't necessary to strengthen muscles? Could the muscle-building process that takes place from exercise be somehow duplicated without the exercise?

3. Look at extremes.

All action scenes would be too much action in a movie, right? This extreme suggests the problem of how to have the right amount - of action and other elements. Maybe a study of past movies, measuring their financial success in relation to various elements, could be used to determine an "ideal" movie formula.

4. Mentally move things.

I was looking at the exhaust fan in the bathroom and imagining it over the shower. This immediately suggested that there might be less steaming up of the mirror if the fan was closer to the source of the steam. A pillow on top of the CD player suggests the idea of subliminal self-help pillows that turn on the messages whenever there is pressure on the pillow.

5. Challenge the "known."

Most people assume poverty causes higher crime rates, but there are places where there is more poverty and less crime. What are some possible explanations, and how could these hypothesis be tested? Do houses really need windows? What about video screens with prettier views, broadcast from cameras that the user subscribes to?

6. Put things together randomly.

A radio-controlled plane and a small surveillance camera, put together in my mind, suggests a new way to look at climbing routes on mountains.

7. Develop silly ideas.

I was wondering what would happen if two strong gusts of wind going in opposite directions met. Would they cancel each other out, or what? A silly thought, but it triggered the idea of a car with high-powered fans that send a sheet of air from the front end out to the roof above the windshield. Would the oncoming air follow this "virtual surface," making the car more aerodynamic?

8. Look for other ways something can be used.

I made a good lightweight backpacking hat from a sleeve of an old thermal shirt. You can pan for gold with a frisbee. The idea of getting stronger muscles from exercise could be applied to getting stronger financial abilities by exercising them. How many other uses can you think of for a chair?

9. Randomly alter things.

What if you were to change the steering wheel on a racing boat? How else could you steer? Could two foot pedals that steered the boat be a more intuitively comfortable way to steer? Just apply more pressure to the foot on the side you want to turn towards. This leaves your hands free for other controls.

10. Apply ideas to new areas.

The science of behavior economics, found that adding a more expensive stove to the selection in a store increased the sales of the stove that was previously the most expensive. How can this principle, called "extremeness aversion," be applied to other areas? For example, if you were trying to get volunteers for a trail-restoration project, would adding a six-day-per month option get more people to volunteer for the one-weekend-per month program?

Some techniques will yield nothing when applied to a particular area, while others will be perfect for that situation or problem. For this reason, it helps to have many idea-generating tools in your arsenal. You can start with the techniques for new and creative ideas listed here.

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