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If you wish to review more background information, please visit the Brainstorm Methods Background section.

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[edit] Background

A Taxonomy of Idea Generation Methods

By Martin Leith, Updated by Paul Williams

This taxonomy was inspired by an excellent analysis undertaken by Ty Francis, CEO of Nowhere Foundation. Were it not for Ty’s ground-breaking work, we’re pretty certain that our taxonomy would not exist. Warm thanks to Ty for sharing his work so generously.

We were also influenced by the 4Rs framework (Re-expression, Related World, Revolution and Random Links) described in the book:


Sticky Wisdom: How to Start a Creative Revolution at Work

Written by partners in the consultancy ?What If!: Dava Allan, Matt Kingdon, Kris Murrin and Daz Rudkin, the ?What If! people limit their framework to four categories because (they say) people find it hard to remember more than four.

[edit] ?What If! Framework

  • B. Related World – Explore a related field (such as fashion if you’re looking for ideas for shampoos) and see what new ideas emerge.
  • D. Random Links – Use random words and objects as stimuli.

[edit] Content Organization & Structure

Brainstorming could be defined as using stimulus to generate ideas and creative thinking.

This collection organizes brainstorming methods into various categories. If you or your team find a particular method of brainstorming interesting or helpful, you may want to try other methods in that category.

Altermatly, if the group doesn’t seem to click using methods, for example, in the Building category, perhaps you should try a different method.

For categorization brainstorming methods are grouped into categories. Each of these categories belongs to a Worldview.

[edit] Organization

  • Worldviews (groups of categories)

    • Categories (groups of brainstorming styles)

      • Methods (brainstorming techniques)

This background may not be helpful for you if you simply want to jump in a create ideas… But it is a meaninful way to log the various methods.

Let’s start with the big picture…

There are four Worldviews…

Brainstorm methods apr09.jpg

Let’s start with Worldview 1.

[edit] navigation

<- Introduction | Worldview 1 ->
Click the Category Header to view the methods of each category.

[edit] Worldview 1 – The World is a Machine

The vast majority of idea generation methods in existence are a product of Worldview 1 thinking. Worldview 1 adherents think that if you want to have a brilliant idea, you must produce a large number of ideas and the brilliant one will be in there somewhere. Many Worldview 1 methods are derivatives of brainstorming, which is ‘quantity leads to quality’ thinking in action. And there is an emphasis on the use of the brain: the body, emotions and spirit are not harnessed to any great extent.

[edit] Category: Inventory Making defines inventory as a detailed, itemized list, report, or record of things in one’s possession, especially a periodic survey of all goods and materials in stock.

The methods included in the ‘inventory making’ category are intended to produce a comprehensive list of options, uncover all issues related to the topic-in-focus, create a rich map of the chosen territory, box the compass, take all factors into account, leave no stone unturned, make a complete inventory.

[edit] Category: Combining

This involves putting together different components or features to create something new.

[edit] Category: Deconstructing

This is the opposite of combining. It involves breaking something down into its component parts to see if one or more of the parts can be eliminated, replaced or assembled in new ways.

[edit] Category: Building

The emphasis here is on taking someone’s idea and enhancing it or using it to trigger related ideas.

All of these methods are examples of the ‘nominal group technique’. People are nominally in a group but they come up with ideas on their own and then share them with the rest of the group.

[edit] Category: Springboards

The emphasis here is on taking someone’s idea and enhancing it or using it to trigger related ideas.

All of these methods are examples of the ‘nominal group technique’. People are nominally in a group but they come up with ideas on their own and then share them with the rest of the group.

[edit] Category: Ideas Across Frontiers

These methods involve looking at other contexts, such as industries, disciplines and companies, to see what ideas might be imported, with or without adaptation.

[edit] Category: Constraing Removal

If it were not for constraints (blocks, barriers, obstacles), your desired future – or desired present, as we prefer to think of it – would become reality immediately. The methods in this category are designed to help you identify constraints and invent ways of removing them.

[edit] Category: Laddering

Laddering, or Ladder of Abstraction, involves moving from the specific to the general, or from the general to the specific.

[edit] Category: Anchoring And Spacial Marking

The concepts of anchoring and spatial marking form part of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and are based on Gregory Benson’s work on contexts and context markers.

[edit] Anchoring

Anchoring is ‘applying a gesture, touch, or sound just before a state peaks, either in oneself or someone else, so that the anchored state can be re-activated by reapplying that gesture, touch or sound. A smell can also be used as an anchor. For example, as you remember the smell of a rose, you may find a memory of some experience that involved roses coming to mind.

Psychologists recognise the pattern of anchoring as stimulus response conditioning. (Source: Inspiritive NLP Glossary.)

[edit] Spacial Marking

Spatial marking is ‘consistently using different areas of space for different actions to associate location with action.’ (Source: Neuro Linguistic Programming Glossary.)

[edit] Category: Working Backwards

This category is for methods that involve imagining that the problem has been solved or that the desired result has been achieved, and working backwards to find out how the result was successfully accomplished.

[edit] navigation

<- Brainstorm Methods Full Article | Worldview 1 Plus ->

[edit] Worldview 1 Plus – The World is a Network of Relationships

(corresponds to Spiral Dynamics vMeme ‘Green’ or Communitarian)

Worldview 1 Plus” is a subset of Worldview 1 as it is still based on notions of cause and effect, and first order change. However, it is an evolved form of Worldview 1 and is a vital bridge to Worldview 2.

Worldview 1 Plus idea generation methods are macro processes in which members of the whole stakeholder system, or significant parts of it, work together as equals to bring something new into being. The macro processes consist of a collection of micro processes, many of which include methods described on this page, particularly techniques listed under the Worldview 1 heading.

[edit] Macro process

(e.g. Real Time Strategic Change)

Underlying structure

(1) Dissatisfaction -> (2) Vision -> (3) Capability -> (4) First Steps

(1) Dissatisfaction

  • Micro processes (workshop sessions)
  • Techniques

(2) Vision

  • Micro processes (workshop sessions)
  • Techniques

(3) Capability

  • Micro processes (workshop sessions)
  • Techniques

(4) First steps

  • Micro processes (workshop sessions)
  • Techniques

[edit] Category: Conversational

Conversational methods involve two or more people coming up with ideas by having a conversation. Many such conversations take place at the same time, and the people having the conversations are members of all relevant stakeholder groups.

[edit] Category: Collaborative

Collaborative methods involve people, drawn from different parts of the stakeholder system, working together as equals to determine the results that need to be achieved, and to develop practical plans for achieving them.

[edit] navigation

<- Worldview 1 | Worldview 2 ->

[edit] Worldview 2 – The World is a System

Whereas Worldview 1 is an understanding of reality based on the thinking of Newton and Descartes, first order change and the laws of cause and effect, Worldview 2 represents an altogether different view of reality.

Under Worldview 2, problem solving, development, innovation and change come about through small nudges that subtly alter the natural flow of events, such that the needs and interests of all relevant parties are satisfied, quickly and with existing resources. Although causal analysis is still useful for solving simple problems such as machine failure, complex issues are addressed through context manipulation, pattern analysis and constraint removal.

(click category header to see the methods for that category)

[edit] Category: Break The Rules

If we stick to the real or imagined rules, the only kind of change that is possible is what Watzlawick, Weakland and Fisch called First Order Change in their book “Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution”.

An example of First Order Change is traffic lights changing. They change within a predictable sequence: green, yellow, red, and back to green. (Or in the UK: green, yellow, red, yellow, then green again).

An example of Second Order Change, to quote Dr. James Wilk, the inventor of Minimalist Intervention, would be the traffic lights ‘changing to purple, or dancing the fandango’. The traffic lights are now breaking the rules determined by the Highways Department: ‘Traffic lights will conform to the “green, yellow, red” pattern, and will refrain from dancing at all times.’

[edit] Category: Do More Of What Works

Here, rather than seeking and attempting to remove underlying causes, or taking a project management or roadmap approach to results creation, you simply find out what is aleady working and do more of it, or identify the exception to the problem state and have it become the norm.

[edit] Category: Minimalist Intervention

This category covers the Minimalist Intervention method and related methods.

[edit] navigation

<- Worldview 1 Plus | Worldview 3 ->

[edit] Worldview 3 – The World is a Field of Energy and Consciousness

The methods grouped under the Worldview 3 heading mostly involve the use of self as the idea generation method. Their purpose is threefold:

  1. raising the level of consciousness,
  2. enabling the innovator to be fully present, and
  3. activating spontaneity and inspiration.

[edit] navigation

<- Worldview 2 |

[edit] Idea Sandbox Note

11 August 2006

This content is totally hijacked from Renee Hopkins Callahan at IdeaFlow. She has been maintaining the content for a number of years. I thought I’d give a look at how it would flow on a wiki… I think it works very well…

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