Sunday, May 20, 2007

Idea Techniques (Group C)

In the book, THINKERTOYS, Michael Michalko, presents sets of techniques for generating ideas. In my previous posts, I covered Group A linear techniques and Group B linear techniques for ideas. In this post, I’ll cover Group C. The Group C techniques help you change perspectives so you can gain new insights or breakthroughs.


  • Brutethink (Random stimulation) - Forces a connection between two dissimilar concepts to create a new idea.
  • Hall of Fame (Forced Connection) - Produces ideas and insights by creating a relationship between your challenge and the words and thoughts of the world's great thinkers.
  • Board of Directors (Forced connection) - Uses a fantasy board of powerhouse business leaders and innovators who will assist you in overcoming your business challenges.
  • Circle of Opportunity (Forced connection) - Generates ideas by forcing a connective link between common attributes and your challenge.
  • Ideatoons (Pattern language) - A way to get ideas by using abstract symbols instead of words.
  • Clevor Trevor (Talk to a stranger) - How to get ideas by increasing the number and kind of people you talk to about your challenges.

The following are blueprints for the techniques.


  1. When you are looking for a fresh approach to a challenge, bring in a random word.
  2. Think of a variety of things that are associated with your chosen word.
  3. Force connections.
  4. List your ideas.

Hall of Fame

  1. Create your personal Hall of Fame. Select those people, living or dead, real or fictional, that appeal to you for one reason or another.
  2. When you have a challenge, conslue your Hall of Fame. Select an adviser and choose a favorite quotation.
  3. Ponder the quotation. Write down your thoughts, regardless of appropriateness to the challenge. If you think it, write it, and try to use these thoughts to generate more relevant thoughts. The basic rules are strive for quantity, defer judgement, freewheel, and seek to combine and improve your thoughts.
  4. Choose the thought or combination of thoughts that holds the most promise.
  5. Allow yourself five to ten minutes to come up with new ideas.

Board of Directors

  1. Select the three to five business movers and shakers, living or dead, whom you admire most.
  2. Get photographs of your Board (these could be photocopied from magazines), and pin them on your wall in a prominent spot. These photographs will constantly remind you of talent at your disposal.
  3. Research your heroes. Hit the library, read their biographies and autobiographies, read what their critics say about them; in short, read everything about your heroes you can get your hands on.
  4. Take notes on your favorite passages, perhaps about obstacles and how they overcame them, or anything that strikes you as relevant and interesting. Pay particular attention to the creative techniques they employed to solve problems, their secrets, what made them stand out, what made them extraordinary, and so on. Keep a separate file on each hero.

Circle of Opportunity

  1. State the challenge you want to solve.
  2. Draw a circle and number it like a clock (1 through 12.)
  3. Select any twelve common attributes, or choose twelve attributes specific to your challenge. Write the attributes next to the numbers on your circle.
  4. Throw one die to choose the first attribute to focus on.
  5. Throw both dice to choose the second attribute.
  6. Consider the attributes both separately and combined.
  7. Search for a link between your associations and your challenge.


  1. Divide your challenge into attributes.
  2. Describe each attribute by drawing an abstract graphic symbol.
  3. Place all of the file cards on a table with the graphic symbols.
  4. Look for ideas and thoughts that you can link to your challenge.
  5. When stalemated, you may want to add other Ideatoons or even start an entirely new set.

Clever Trevor

  1. Talk to someone who is outside your field and from an entirely different background.
  2. Seek out idea-oriented people. Surround yourself with people who are creatively alert, who have a keen interest in life and are excited about being alive, who are naive about your business but not stupid or ignorant, who have a great wit and see the absurdity in things, who have different value systems than yours, who travel and pay attention to what they observe, who are voracious readers.
  3. Draw out the creativity in strangers you meet casually.
  4. Listen.

Key Take Aways

  • My favorite techniques from this set are Hall of Fame and Board of Directors. I really like the ideas of using reference examples such as your personal heroes in business and life. While they are a bit of work up front, I can see how they get easier over time. Imagine the personal cabinet of advisors you build over time to draw upon whenever you choose.
  • I think some of the concepts in Smart Questions: Learn to Ask the Right Questions for Powerful Resultsparallel the Clever Trevor technique.
Additional Resources

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