Use Some Brute Thinking to Generate New Ideas!

To get original ideas, it’s valuable to create new sets of mental patterns. A way to do this is to force yourself to see relationships between dissimilar things. When you can do this, you will see ideas where none existed before, according to creativity expert Michael Michalko and his popular ThinkerToys.

Michalko calls this creativity technique BruteThink. It lets you learn from relationships that might not occur spontaneously by pairing two things which have nothing in common and see what emerges. Trying to define the process is a little difficult, somewhat like trying to bite your own teeth. That is brutal. (Thanks, Michael.)

Michalko believes the human brain cannot deliberately concentrate on two separate objects or ideas without eventually forming a connection. Here is his four-step BruteThink blueprint:

  1. When you are looking for a fresh approach to a challenge, bring in a random word. The word you bring must be truly random and not selected for any relevance to the challenge. Random words start a fresh association of ideas. Random words from unrelated contexts are a rich source of connection-making material.
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  3. There are several ways to select a random word:

    * Retrieve one from the dictionary by opening to any page.

    * Soap, soup or sand exemplify words that are simple, visual and connection rich. You have used these words repeatedly throughout most of your life. They evoke images. And each word will trigger other words and images.

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  5. Think of the variety of things that are associated with your chosen word. Suppose, you randomly select bottle as your word. What are the characteristics of a bottle? What does a bottle do? It contains. What do you do with a bottle? Cork it. Fill it. Empty it. Bottles have labels. Bottles are made of glass and plastic. They are functional and sometimes are aesthetic. Beer bottles come in six-packs. You can buy single bottles, packs or cartons.
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  7. Force connections. Make a forced connection between your random word and the challenge you are working on. Suppose your challenge is, “In what ways might I increase sales this month?” You select bottle as your random word. Draw a bottle and then think about the similarities, connections and associations between bottles and sales.
  • Bottles can be filled up. How much are we listening to customers? Should we devise programs that would allow customers to fill us up with their true needs and desires?
  • Six-packs. Can we repackage our goods and services in new and novel ways to differentiate ourselves? Can we make the package part of the product’s form?
  • Point of purchase. Beverages can be bought individually, in packs or in cartons. Should we offer different packages for different customer needs?
  • Bottles come in various shapes and sizes. Should we develop a greater array of options? Different prices for different packages based on customer needs? How many different ways can we reshape our goods and services?
  1. List your ideas. Otherwise, you won’t remember them. Not recording your ideas is like sitting in a shower of gold with nothing but a pitchfork. (Love this, Michael!)

Allow yourself five minutes for this exercise — that should be ample time. You’ll find connections and ideas occur long after the five minutes are up. BruteThink practice is using a random word on problems for five minutes daily.


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