Saturday, May 19, 2007

Idea Techniques (Group A)

In the book THINKERTOYS, Michael Michalko, presents sets of techniques for generating ideas. In this post, I'll cover the Group A linear techniques. The Group A linear techniques reorganize known information in different ways by listing, dividing, combining, or manipulating it to give you new entry points for solving problems.


  • False Faces (Reversal) – How to find ideas b y reversing conventional assumptions.
  • Slice and Dice (Attribute listing) – How to get new ideas from a challenge’s attributes.
  • Cherry Split (Fractionism) – How to get ideas by dividing a challenge into two or more components and then reassembling them in new and different ways.
  • Think Bubbles (Mind mapping) – How to map your thoughts so as to spark new ideas.
  • SCAMPER (Questions) – How to manipulate what exists into something different.

The following are blueprints for the techniques.

False Faces

  1. State your challenge.
  2. List your assumptions.
  3. Challenge your fundamental assumptions.
  4. Reverse each assumption. Write down the opposite of each one.
  5. Record differing viewpoints that might prove useful to you.
  6. Ask yourself how to accomplish each reversal. List as many useful viewpoints and ideas as you can.

Slice and Dice

  1. State your challenge.
  2. Analyze the challenge and list as many attributes as you can.
  3. Take each attribute, one at a time, and try to think of ways to change or improve it. Ask “How else can this be accomplished?” and “Why does this have to be this way?”
  4. Strive to make your thinking both fluent and flexible.

Cherry Split

  1. State the essence of your challenge in two words. For example, “Cherry picking.”
  2. Split the challenge into two separate units. For example, one unit is “cherry” and the other is “picking.”
  3. Split each attribute into two more attributes. For instances, “cherry” is split into “delicate” and “separate,” “picking” is split into “remove” and “transport.”
  4. Continue splitting the attributes until you feel that you have enough to work with. For example, “delicate” into “damaged” and “blemished,” “separate” into “selecting” and “closeness to each other,” “remove” into “touch and hold” and “picking,” and “transport” into “ground” and “boxes.”
  5. Examine each attribute for ideas. Big ideas can dwell in the most insignificant attribute.
  6. Try reassembling the attributes. New combinations introduce new perspectives and ideas.

Think Bubbles

  1. Organization. Map out the information the way you think it. Use a whiteboard or paper or anything you like.
  2. Keywords. Ignore all relevant words and phrases and concentrate only on expressing the essentials, and what associations these “essences” excite in your mind.
  3. Association. Make connections, links and relationships between seemingly isolated and unconnected pieces of information.
  4. Clustering. The map’s organization comes close to the way your mind clusters concepts, making the mapped information more accessible to the brain.
  5. Conscious involvement. Making the map requires you to concentrate on your challenge.

Scamper is a checklist of idea-spurring questions:

  • Substitue something.
  • Combine it with something else.
  • Adapt something to it.
  • Modify or Magnify it.
  • Put it to some other use.
  • Eliminate something.
  • Reverse or Rearrange it.


  1. Isolate the challenge or subject you want to think about.
  2. Ask SCAMPER questions about each step of the challenge or subject and see what new ideas emerge

Key Take Aways

  • I like how False Faces helps you to challenge your assumptions.
  • Slice and dice is a great way to walk the attributes and look for improvement opportunities an attribute at a time.
  • I like how Cherry Split helps you break problems down in a systematic way. It’s easy to look at the problem in new ways.
  • In SCAMPER, I like the simplistic but effective idea generation framework of questions.

Additional Resources

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