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Jon Thrower

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Creativity Techniques


There are probably nearly as many creativity tools as there problems to solve, and half the battle in using them is in finding the right one to choose. I've seen examples of their use where complex tools do little more than document the ideas that people already have, or used as glorified meeting aids. However, this should not diminish their usefulness - provided they do the job efficiently - they just shouldn't be expected to yield magical results when used incorrectly.

I can't claim to be a highly experienced practitioner of  these techniques, however I have tried all the ones listed here. My aim in presenting them is to offer individual techniques in the context of how they can be useful.

Why use Creativity Techniques?

Fundamentally, they are fun and help in focusing groups or individuals!

They can be of use in our working lives, or our personal lives, on complex problems, or as a way of coming up with new and exciting ideas. 

Some more specific reasons for using these techniques in a particular environment could be:

  • To obtain a large number of ideas on a subject in a very rapid way
  • To provide a framework to explore a problem in a group: it's easy to get bogged down or diverted when working in a team, and these tools can help manage the discussion
  • To define a problem area where the problem cannot initially be expressed in simple terms: where problems are too abstract or complex, it can be hard to get a view of what it is that's being discussed. Until a problem can be understood, it's very hard to evaluate solutions, even if possible candidate solutions are proposed. 
  • To unite a team in a common objective: these can be used in team building exercise, or real world problems to help advance a team's development
  • To explore a controversial issue in a non-confrontational manner: these techniques can be fun to employ, and because they concentrate on the positive promotion of ideas, rather than discussion and evaluation they tend to avoid conflict
  • To "discard" initial deeply held views on a subject, and get on to the real problem: because views are recorded rapidly, it frees up team members to start thinking creatively, rather than just recycling the old ideas.
  • As a way of livening up meetings

It's not important that the real reasons for needing to use the techniques are identified before you use them, they won't necessarily change the choices you make. 

How Do They Work?

Many people go for the first answer they find when thinking about a problem. This isn't necessarily the best, and may just be the way they've always done it. Alternatively, they may decide that a particular problem can't be solved, and just work round it.

This means that we're often not working in the best or most efficient way.

By allowing the whole subject to be explored, including what may initially appear to be un-useful ideas, we can find alternative ways of doing things that may be beneficial to us.

What Are the Techniques and How Do I Choose?

The techniques are broken down into the following categories:

  • Brainstorming - the process of generating ideas
  • Challenging Assumptions - ways of looking at what we already know
  • Catching the Subconscious Napping - getting ideas people didn't know they had
  • Making Selections - how to choose the best ideas

I'll be turning each of these into links and populating the detail underneath them over the coming months.


Jon Thrower © 2007
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