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  • Writer's pictureJo Langham

Top 10 ways to stimulate new ideas

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

Asking people in a group to come up with new ideas or solutions to problems is difficult. Most people struggle to generate ideas cold with no assistance. You need to warm up your brain to think differently. Your brain has a number of heuristics or rules of thumb that it relies on to help you deal with the problems that you need to deal with in everyday life. If you want to move beyond the standard solutions try these quick tips.

  1. Park (put on hold) standard ideas - when you start identifying solutions put all of your ideas down. The most obvious ones will come first. Do not dismiss these. Try to capture as many solutions as possible but don't stop at this point. "Park" these ideas either on a board or in a document. These may be useful later.

  2. Try different contexts - place your problem in a different situation. How would you solve your problem in this new context? We are very good at using a solution in one situation to solve a problem in a very different situation. Think about how you would solve your problem if you were at home, with your family, or in another country.

  3. Use metaphors - If you think about your problem as part of a story, metaphor or analogy. Is your problem just the tip of an iceberg? Is it the fuel in a fire? If so, what can you use from the metaphor to help you solve the problem? Narratives told to us as children (for example: fables) are to help us develop metaphors or frameworks to solve problems as we grow. Use these to help you think differently about your problem.

  4. Use other organisations and stereotypes - stereotypes can be useful to make you frame your problem differently. For example: How would Google solve this? How would Amazon solve this? This will help you challenge your problem from a different perspective.

  5. Reverse the problem - what if you had the opposite problem? What insights do you see from think about the impact of the reverse problem?

  6. Look at the problem using different views or lenses - break the problem down into parts. How would you solve it with the most cost effective means? How would you solve it to improve comfort? Make it smaller? Make it environmentally sustainable? Accessible?

  7. Envision the future - how would you solve this problem in the future? Maybe 5 years or 10 years? What things could be done differently?

  8. Add different constraints - Make up constraints that you might work within - how would you solve this with only $100?

  9. Scaffold ideas - take two different solutions (bisociation) and put them together. Develop new ideas by combining ideas to come up with something new.

  10. Just add soap - When all else fails add soap. (What?) Find an object or a common tool, food or experience and think about how you could use that in your problem solution.

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