Creative Thinking for Business
Creative Thinking E-book
I think the provocation tool is the most fun of any tool in the Sly as Fox Toolkit. It can also be the most powerful in that it will really force you to think outside the box. Begin by writing down your problem statement. Provoke new ideas by changing the problem statement to make it outrageous, ridiculous, totally far-fetched, backwards, impossible, or something just as wacky.
This tool is used best in combination with the WBF. Start off with your typical problem statement. Then twist it, flip it, or shake it upside down to get a new outrageous problem statement. You know you have struck gold with your provocation statement if it makes you laugh, cry, or get angry.
A good provocation is a lot like humor. Think of the punch line in a joke. What makes it funny? It is only funny when the punch line doesn’t fit your expectation. If you can anticipate the punch line, then it’s not funny, right?
The provocation tool will help you generate many new ideas to solve the problem because the new problem statement is so far fetched. Common sense would tell you that the provocation is only going to generate a bunch of ideas and solutions that are irrelevant to the real problem. But your common sense would be wrong. You will be amazed at the amount of new ideas you can generate using this tool. After you complete the brainstorming sessions, you typically have many new ideas. Then if you evaluate the ideas individually, you find that a number of them, outrageous as they are, have merit if applied to the original problem statement. Albeit sometimes it may require a modification or another twist or two.
Let’s look at an example of something totally outrageous. Let’s assume that planes land upside down.
We all know that idea is ridiculous, but you have to admit the provocation statement makes you really think outside the box. Go ahead and do a WBF on it. Here are a few items that show up on the positive list of the WBF.
· Everyone would be wearing their seatbelts
· Overhead compartments would be easier to reach
· The pilots could see the runway better
If you went through this example using the WBF tool, you would discover all kinds of new ideas that might be practical. Take the example of “pilots would be able to see the runway.” The Army used the provocation tool with this same problem statement for helicopter design prior to the Vietnam War. The fact that pilots could see the runway better with the windshield pointing at the ground was not far fetched. Why not put another windshield in the floor of the helicopter so the pilot could see the ground more clearly when landing?
How about airplane overhead compartments being easier to reach? Let’s expand on that idea a little. How could we make the overhead bins easier to reach? How could we make them roomier? As a solution, why can’t airplanes have storage bins in the floors under the seats?
When I use this provocation in my management training class, the idea of bins being easier to reach always comes up. It is no surprise since we have all experienced the pain and agony of storing items in the overhead binds. Why has no one implemented the floor storage idea? Have they just not thought of it yet?
A simple and easy extension of the provocation tool is the use of a “springboard.” Instead of using the provocation tool as described, list a provocation and try to think of other more ridiculous and outrageous version of that provocation statement. Let the craziness run wild, as each provocation “springboards” off the next until the ideas get further and further out of sight. Then when you think you really have a provocation that is totally ridiculous, select it and do a WBF. This springboard approach forces you to think of ideas that are really outside the box.
Picture yourself at work administering the springboard and provocation tools. You ask for an outrageous provocation statement of the real problem you are trying to work. If you get a laugh because it’s so silly, you’re off to a great start. When everyone quits laughing, ask the room for a modification or springboard of the idea that would be even more ridiculous. Repeat the process several times until you really get a bizarre problem statement to work. Then do a detailed WBF on it. You will get really new and innovative ideas out of this exercise. This approach puts you in a position that is so far away from your normal thinking it will be ripe with new ideas and fun.