This week was all about different ways to come up with ideas. We used 5 different techniques:

  • Free thinking. Someone in the class chose a water bottle, and we free thought about different ways to use the bottle (“It’s a microphone”, “it’s a telescope”, “it’s a weapon”, etc).
  • Directed thinking. We picked two things: an object and a problem: sunglasses, and wrinkled clothing. We all made lists of ways to use the object to solve the problem.
  • Attributes: Instead of coming up with ideas right away, we made a list of what we imagined a successful idea would be like (Chosen problem was “whiteboard pens annoy the class by running out of ink”). After we made our list of attrbibutes, we used directed thinking on one attribute at a time to generate ideas.
  • Reversal: We inverted the attributes: easy to use became hard to use. Cheap became expensive. We then generate ideas based on these new themes (regardless of whether they solved the problem or not).
  • Mindmaps: We picked two problems “Public transporation” and “Design a new kind of soap”, and made visual diagrams representing possible ideas.
  • Feature Matrix: We grabbed features from different mindmaps, made a list, and made a matrix with the list across the bottom and top, giving us a matrix of possible ways to combine those attributes into new ideas.


Key takeaways:

  • Idea generation = problem solving. Problem is defined as a challenge, as in “the problem of curing cancer” rather than in a pejorative sense.
  • Idea generation techniques help you find possible ways to solve problems you might not find otherwise. There is a space of potential solutions called the problem space.
  • Everyone feels more or less creative in different techniques: that’s why we’re trying so many. Pay attention to which ones are easier, more fun, or more productive for you.