Creative Thinking for Business
Creative Thinking E-book
Random Input is one of the simplest tools in the Sly as a Fox Toolkit.
The concept is simple and straightforward. You can do this by yourself or with a brainstorming team. The team-building concept is the most effective and works best with 8-12 people. Start off by writing down the issue or problem you are trying to resolve into a “problem statement.”
Next, introduce “random input” to your thinking. The idea here is that the random input will force you to think of new ideas. Take the random input and use it to brainstorm as many new ideas as you possibly can. What new ideas does this random input make you think of? What do the new input and your problem have in common? What does this new input suggest? What else could this lead to? What you are trying to do is generate new solutions to the problem using the random input as a stimulus or springboard to new ideas.
If you are like most people, your first reaction will be that the random input has nothing to do with your problem and therefore you will want to disregard it. Don’t do it. Think for a while and force yourself to find as many associations as you can between the two. The reason you don’t immediately see the similarities is that it doesn’t fit your established mind pattern. The biggest mistake you can make is to discard the random input and move on to another random input, another creative thinking tool, or just give up. Don’t do it. Force yourself to come up with new ideas. I promise you that you will never pick a random input where you can’t find dozens of new ideas if you just use your imagination and take a little time to think.
There are several methods you can use to generate these random inputs. The first is to simply close your eyes and point to a random place on a page of a magazine or newspaper. Keep in mind that nouns work best so you may want to keep picking words until you hit a noun.
Another method is to use a “random word generator.” Several of these can be found by simply typing in “random word generator” into Google search. You can find free software programs on the web and some even better ones for as little as a dollar.
Another approach, which is my favorite, is to pick any word you can think of and type it into Google search. When the results are displayed in Google, the default is the “web” format. If you look at the top left hand part of the page you will see the tab labeled “web” highlighted. Just to the right of it is the “images” tab. Click on that and the search results will now show images only.
Pick any of the images and use the “picture” as the random input instead of a word or noun as described above. With an Internet connection and a projector you can display the picture for the whole room to see. You will often find that the ambiguity of a picture will generate even more creative ideas than just a random word input.
Here are a couple of examples where random creativity was effectively used.
When Campbell’s Soup was brainstorming new ideas for soup products they used the random word tool. I wasn’t there so I don’t know the exact sequence of words that came out of the brainstorming session. Here’s my take on what happened. Campbell’s was looking for a new kind of soup or an expansion to their current product line. They used the random word tool and started with the word “apartment.” Then they brainstormed around that word. No logic, they just let the ideas flow – apartment lead to building, build, tools, hammer, saw, drill, knife, which eventually lead to fork. Someone on team said, “You can’t eat soup with a fork. It would have to be in chunks to do that.” So Chunky Soup was born.
My wife, who at times is a skeptic on this whole creative thinking thing, wanted to come up with a unique idea for my friend Dave’s 50th birthday so we tried the random word tool. We were having a birthday party for him and we needed to get him a birthday cake. We started with the cake idea and picked a word from our random word software tool. The word was “movie.” I asked my wife what that word made her think of and she said “my Cousin Vinny.” The word “cousin” made her think of her family since she has eight brothers and sisters in the Tennessee clan. The family made her think of her “Mom.” Then she started on her tired rampage again complaining that Medicare will pay for Viagra but it won’t pay for a new hearing aid for her mother (a legitimate complaint).
So there you have it, the idea of Viagra. We both decided we should have the bakery build a cake in the shape of a Viagra pill! We went to the web, downloaded a picture of a Viagra pill, and had Alberstons make the blue cake.