The Catalogue

Random images or words are the basic elements for creativity boosting. Regardless which technique is used, these are the core elements within every single creativity methodology. Since lateral thinking promotion is the goal, any given element is good enough to achieve it. “The Catalogue” technique aims it by helping to randomly select words or images which are next used as seeds for idea generation. You have a link below where a similar game is proposed, which achieves same result as “The Catalogue” technique by means of random word selection.

So, how does this tool work? Let’s see an example.

1) Set the challenge to be solved. An example. Imagine you own a headhunting consulting business. Your challenge may be “how can I offer new services to my clients, both candidates and company managers?”

2) Pick up a catalogue where both images and words are available. A supermarket brochure may be a good choice, even a magazine, or anything where you can get inspiration from. A valid choice is shown below.


3) Choose one word, one image, both of them, as you prefer. They are the key elements to make you think of your challenge and imagine new perspectives which finally lead to creative solutions. Then you must describe all attributes that come to your mind related to the elements that have been chosen.

4) From the attribute list, concentrate on the challenge and try to solve it. Now it’s the time to open up you creative skills. Following our example, let us choose the juice bricks at the right bottom of the brochure. They are juicy, presumably fresh, keep their properties for long time if stored in the fridge. Now let’s link these attributes with our headhunting challenge…

What if our candidates were like an opened juice brick? How to keep them fresh? How to maintain their properties? How about organizing a monthly interview with company managers we offer our services to? It would be a way to keep the candidates in the loop, regardless real necessity by the managers. The candidates would be interviewed and so would show their skills to managers. In some cases managers may be impressed and keep a fast way at hand to rapidly count -if necessary- on given people whose skill are specially interesting.

And what may happen if our candidates were the brick themselves? Robust and able to keep the content in good conditions? Able to support several bricks piled up? How about thinking of providing new services by taking advantage of candidates’ relevant skills? Interim management? Brand new consultant services? Candidate’s part-time job by providing support to given companies which were interested in short term collaborations? It would simultaneously enrich candidates by enabling them to share their knowledge in distinct challenges, and also would provide good service to company managers who would be temporarily supported by specialized professionals.

Just two examples of what this simple method can provide. As usual, the appropriateness of the creative ideas is to be evaluated according to the given challenge, but the power of the method for potential idea generation is obvious.

Hail to the creativity!

Warm-up exercise

This post is slightly different to the previous ones you have been reading over here. It deals about creativity indeed, but instead of talking about a given creativity tool it’s rather focused on a warm-up technique to be used as a prior exercise before the team works on the real innovation problem. Honestly I must confess that I do not usually follow this good practice and I normally rush into the problem instead. It’s like doctors, you know, who advice you about stopping drinking and smoking for the sake of your health and later on they do abuse themselves (please do not feel bothered if you are one of them since it is just a joke 🙂 ).

Anyway, this technique is very good to be used before the team starts since it helps your brain to warm up and simultaneously cheers the people up, creating a good atmosphere for achieving a better performance of the team when the real challenge must be confronted. You can find many of these warm-up techniques available either on books or in the Internet, though I’m going to share with you one of my favorite ones (and as far as I remember the first one I learnt during my first creativity course provided by an external consultant several years ago).

What can you see down here?


Yes, you’re right. It is the number three. So far, so good… 🙂 However I’m thinking of something different, since this is a creativity blog and not a maths class. The goal is being able to see beyond the obvious, and prepare you mind to discover hidden meaning on the subject your eyes at looking at. Are you ready for it? Let me write some of the things you may discover out of this element…

half an eight

half the infinity

a moustache


a glasses

a bottom

a woman’s breast

a frog’s eyes

a camel’s back

the letter omega from greek alphabet

a goat’s horns

a spring…

Can you go beyond? I’m sure you can. This game must be used as an introduction and challenges every member of the team to read aloud and share what they see. You can suggest reaching about 50 different meaning to stop the game (50 is possible, believe me, and even more). They all will participate and provide fun meanwhile their brains are stretching and warming up. Every meaning is valid, since the goal is not discussing about the reality beyond the obvious but preparing our minds for the tough exercises that are coming.

Hail to the creativity!


The background theme of this blog is balloons. I chose it since it depicts very well the subject of this blog, with our creative ideas floating around just as balloons freely dancing out of our mind. A metaphor about what our creative thinking should be.

It turns out that there is a very good technique created by one of my favorite creativity gurus, Arthur VanGundy. And the name of this tool is incidentally “balloons”. Isn’t it a lovely coincidence? Nevertheless behind this childish name you can find a very powerful technique, quietly waiting and hidden but expecting to jump and show its creativity thrust. As many other techniques, this one is based on serendipity, but it also provides a given amount of joy which actually transforms the technique in a very relevant tool to bear in mind. Creativity is proven to be enhanced by a proper mental state by the people involved. Playing is a very good way of tuning up this mental state. Since this technique combines creativity and joy in a perfect mixture making them work in harmony, results are guaranteed!

It is specially usable for products improvements, trying to enhance its characteristics, find new uses, and generally speaking differentiating the product from current standards in the market. Do you want to know how it works?

1) Prepare the session in advance by getting some balloons in two different colors, let’s say red and green.

2) The team must write on several notes the parts or attributes of the product being improved, and these elements are put inside a balloon each (red ones, for instance). Let’s suppose we are the manager of a company which manufactures plastic bottles, who is  interested in improving them by looking into a new design. For instance, some of the words written by the people are cap, shape and size.

3) The team members use the other balloons (in this case green ones) for putting stimulation elements inside. Strange sentences must be written in order to promote creative ideas. Sentences must be simple (a noun and adjective is usually enough). An example for our team may be “crying elephants”, “freezing chair” and “silent pane”.

4) All balloons are blown up, mixed and randomly distributed inside the room where the creative session is going to take place. The people is sorted out in couples or trios and they all are asked to pick a couple of balloons -one of each color-. The aim is linking attributes with sentences and explore the meaning of the combination.

Hence, some examples of the random combinations may be “cap silent pane”, “size crying elephants” and “shape freezing chair”.

Does “cap silent pane” suggest you a transparent cap? Maybe a stick plastic film for small bottles, substituting the traditional cap which closes the bottle. This new “cap” would be removed for consumption and it would be very useful for small bottles.

Does “size crying elephants” make you think of a bottle with special caps with a tiny hole to allow liquid to be pushed out of the bottled by squeezing it? It’s a way of not having to uncap it for pouring the liquid out. And how about enormous bottles as a way to differentiate your product?

Does “shape freezing chair” talks about special molds to be used for ice sculptures? A new product to create ephemeral decorative elements for the winter? Your garden full with these sculptures?

Fun is ensured. Writing notes, putting them inside the balloons, blowing them and exploding them is an excellent way of starting a creative meeting. Don’t you think so? Just try, and check it. Amusement for sure. And above all, highly creative ideas too!

Hail to the creativity!

Forced Attributes

There is no day when you do not learn something new. Just looking around you, you can find many things which provide a new way of watching, exploring, or even a completely new approach to something. A LinkedIn colleague, Paco Corma, has shared in his blog a very interesting way to develop product modifications by focusing on differentiation. It may also be used with services, since its core characteristics allow it. This technique uses unrelated stimuli to link a given product or service (the one feeding the new characteristics to explore) with our challenge (our goal product or service which we want to enhance). By “copying and pasting” attributes we can transfer characteristics from one to another and find surprising new approaches to the one being analyzed.

This is the way the tool works:

1) Choose a sample product or service you want to use as feeding element. It should be a random choice, and a suggested option is having several elements prepared in advance (written on notes) and picking one of them before the exercise starts.

2) The chosen element must be described by listing its attributes or characteristics. They are real facts linked to it when we buy it, consume it or dispose of it after use.

3) All listed elements must be explored to force connections among them and the challenge, namely our product or service to be enhanced.

Do you want to see an example about how it works? Let’s suppose you own a plant where umbrellas are manufactured. You are looking for some ways to differentiate your product and enhance it. A phone is going to be used as the feeding element to provide stimuli for idea generation. Some of the phone attributes which may be listed are:

– it rings when somebody calls you

– it allows hands-free use if utilized with proper external devices

– it is either wire-connected or wireless

– it works when you push buttons to dial

Taking a look at them and connecting each one to our challenge (umbrella), may release the following ideas:

– How about a bluetooth connection system with your cellular to hear or display the incoming call number in order to warn you that somebody is calling you when walking by the street during a rainy day? Wind may make you not notice the incoming call and the ring on the cell would prevent it.

– How about designing a hands-free strapping system to your body for allowing the umbrella to be used without having to fix it with your hands?

– What if we include a microphone and speaker on the handle so that the bluetooth connection also provides conversation capabilities?

– May we add an automatic electric system to make the umbrella open and close without having to pull by hand?

You can see the technique is very simple and effective. The more attributes you list the more modifications to your product or service you can define.

Hail to the creativity!

Object Brainstorming

Non animated objects are fantastic elements to help you to unfold our creativity skills. They help to take us to distant places where new perspectives of a given area can be found. Regardless you are trying to focus on new ideas for products, services, etc, they are a good option if you want to increase your idea generation rate. See the link below to learn about a very appealing story.

In the post above an animal-like object was used as stimulus for the generation of a new product. The “Object Brainstorming” technique is based on the same concept, though it actually uses objects to think of new uses of a given product or service that you want to enhance. First time I heard about it was in the book “Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers”, by Dave Gray , Sunni Brown and James Macanufo. This technique is based on force stimulus to generate new ideas for current products or services. By concentrating on real objects and trying to get inspiration from them, new ideas emerge and help us to slightly adapt or completely transform the element which is being challenged during the exercise.

Let’s us see an example…

Imagine you are a mobile phone app developer. You want to improve one of the well known applications for social communication which keep you on touch with friends everywhere. So your challenge is to develop a new apps based on the same concept but you focus on launching something new with extended characteristics.

How about using a dice as the object to get inspiration from? The action of rolling it and getting a random result? May it mean that every week a kind of lottery is available for free enrollment and the prize is suggesting new enhancements of the app to the programmers? You would be credited for it and known by all users. May the die mean that only 6 faces are always available? This take us to a special service where you can create and join a restricted group of 6 close friends for whom video messages are available by paying just 1$  as yearly fee. Many groups are allowed to be created, but you can only belong to one.

How about using a shoe as the object to lend ideas from? You use shoes for walking. So why not thinking of your app as a walking tracking device? You may enable geopositioning for a limited amount of 6 close friends only. They would instantly know where you are by taking a look at the app map. The app may as well allow some basic personal information sharing for allowing your close friend to choose a present for you if they want to. Your shoes or clothes size? Your birthday?

This may continue to the infinity and beyond, since the only limit is your imagination. Remember this is just idea generation and not idea selection, since in this stage you are just interested in potential ways of improving your product or service. Examination, rejection and final selection will come later.

Choose an object and try. It’s easy and very efficient.

Hail to the creativity!

Random Brainwriting

Maybe you remember one of my previous posts in which the “Brainwrinting” technique was mentioned. It included a link to a very interesting blog were 7 creativity techniques were described, including an alternative approach to the classical “Brainwriting” tool.

By surfing in Internet and looking for new methodologies, I have come across another “Brainwriting” variation which has delighted me. It combines both dynamic participation and unrelated stimuli association, whose combination is amazing. I’m longing for testing it as soon as I can in one of my next innovation sessions.

It’s a method whose main advantage is that the amount of people working simultaneously for ideas generation is virtually unlimited. The proper way to organize the teamwork is described as follows:

1) Every people is informed in advance about the challenge which is going to be undertaken. They must bring to the session at least one idea previously generated.

2) When everybody is available, they are told to select the most promising idea they own. They must stand and get distributed around the room on a circle. They write down their idea on a paper which must be stuck to the wall.

3) They move one position clockwise and read the idea which was written by the neighbor. Their task is to generate a new idea after reading the previous one and evolving it in order to make it better. This new idea is written down below the initial one.

4) They move again, but this time two positions clockwise. The process to be followed is the same, namely further evolution of the last idea. The new one is written down below again.

5) Same process, same movement, but this time three positions clockwise. A new evolved idea is written down below the previous ones.

6)  New movement is required, this time one position only. But an additional creative element is included in this row, since instead of doing a free evolution of the idea, an enhanced evolution according to a given pattern must be provided. How? Just by asking people to write down a new idea as long as it matches a question. This question must be weird enough to ensure lateral thinking and radical evolution is achieved. For instance, how would you ensure the idea is suitable and usable by a baby? Another example, how would you implement it if your customers were martians who do not speak your language? One more example, how would you develop it if no computers were available in the world? Depending on the challenge, the bizarre question must be designed so that it permits a zigzag evolution to enrich the ideas generation process.

7) People are told to move again, two positions this time, and write down a new idea evolving the original one.

8) The process is finished now and everybody is requested to go back to their previous position in order to select the best idea which has been developed from their original one.

Do you want to know more about it? Find below the link to read further description of the topic.

The main pro of this technique is that you can combine it with several individual creativity tools in order to enhance the result. These tools may be either your own ones or some of the techniques I have been sharing with you in previous posts of this blog. Do you want to insert the “Wildest Idea” in between? Do you want to force people’s inspiration by showing them an “Oneiric Vision” in one of the steps?

Appealing, isn’t it? The more you play, the more you gain.

Hail to the creativity?