Learning Creative Thinking
April 25, 2005
- by Robert E. Stevens, GENESIS II(The Second Beginning) E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last night I attended a local school's dress rehearsal for the Regional Tournament for the "Odyssey of the Mind." I had the opportunity to observe the creativity of six groups of students from the third grade to the eleventh. What an experience! We in the corporate world could learn a lot about creativity from these students.
Watching these children brought back a lot of good memories from the early 1980s while attending CPSI, The Creative Problem Solving Institute, at the University of Buffalo in New York. I realized that without thinking about it, I frequently use techniques taught during the training sessions. In looking for new product ideas, for instance, we were taught to use magnification, minification, rearrangement, addition, or subtraction. All we need to do is to look around to changes in today's world to see how these simple ideas led to big businesses. In the areas of manification/minification consider White Castles vs. the Whopper, Ultras in laundry detergents, extended cabs in pickup trucks, mini vans, SUVs, frozen food entrees vs. the Hungryman Dinners or mini-bikes vs. motorcycles.
In the area of "Addition" look at the laundry detergent market. We no longer have just detergent, we have detergent with fabric softener, bleach alternatives and enzymes. Even a hand dishwashing detergent now contains a bleach alternative. Notice how common food items have changes in regards to the "Addition" concept. Many basic food items such as milk, fruit juices and cereals now contain added vitamins and minerals.
In the "Subtraction" area we see foods with no sugar added, reduced carbohydrates, less fat, salt free, fewer calories, etc.
In the "Rearrangement" area we have office equipment that has been redesigned for use in the car and the home. One of the exercises in learning to use these ideas to stimulate creativity was to sit at your desk and redesign your car with all the features of your office or visualize how you could add features from your home to your car. P&G took their Tide Stain Brush technology and created the Crest Spinbrush. Gillette took their Duracell and Braun technology to create the M3Power razor.
If you want to dabble a little in creativity, I suggest that you make a list of product attributes from different product areas. Then focus on one product area and sequentially go through the list of attributes asking yourself, "How or in what way might this attribute solve a consumer need in this category?" Most of the relationships will be on the ridiculous side, but there will be one or two real nuggets buried in the list. Keep in mind a saying by former Yale University President, Kingman Brewster, "There is a correlation between the creative and the screwball. So we must suffer the screwball gladly." To foster creativity in yourself and others, be willing to tolerate a little oddness.
Creativity resides in every human being. Unfortunately as we grow out of our childhood years, fear sets in and we suppress our ability to explore, be open minded, defer judgment and at times be childlike.
If you get the opportunity to attend a CPSI Conference, do yourself a favor and invest a week. But please, defer judgment the first few days. I almost left the conference after the first day. I thought it was a little on the childish side. It was, but had I left, I would have missed out on one of my greatest learning experiences.
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