Brainstorming and Social Progress

Social progress requires new ideas – innovations, marketing strategies, solutions, programs, projects,

policies. Brainstorming is one way to get those new ideas. You know about brainstorming, of course.  You may not have known that better brainstorming methods exist. 

Those who write about or teach brainstorming techniques have developed numerous tools for sparking a flow of ideas. Usually the techniques involve two steps: (1) express your challenge as a key word or phrase and (2) compare that word or phrase to something that’s been selected at random. You could open a dictionary to a random page and select the first noun on the page, select a random place or thing or activity from a list.

How is preventing homelessness like planning a birthday party?
How is a homeless shelter like a lizard?

Edward De Bono, one of the world’s top experts on the thinking skills, creating a new word, po, to represent a “provocative operation.” A provocative operation is basically a forced comparison of two things that seem to be unrelated. The word “po” could be used as follows:

homeless person po vending maching
po homeless people don’t require food to survive

The second use represents a deliberate attempt to break from reality and see if any practical new ideas are sparked by that temporary escape from reality. Homeless people obviously need to eat, but a workable  idea might be contained in the fanciful thought that homeless people can survive without food.

Homeless people are obviously nothing like vending machines. So what’s the point of making such a comparison? Take a couple of minutes to list all of the characteristics, features, benefits, and such that you associate with vending machines. Go through each of those items one at a time and try to force some connection with the challenge of feeding the homeless.

In both cases, provocations are the starting point for few minutes of brainstorming. The results from one of these structured brainstorming sessions should be better than the results from simply sitting down for a few minutes to come up with ideas.


~ by chetdavis on September 22, 2007.

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