Split Cherries for New Ideas and Creative Solutions

Sometimes the solution to a problem lies within the problem itself.

That’s the premise of Cherry Split, a Michael Michalko creative process, which allows you to take a challenge apart and then reassemble those parts into ideas in different ways to create any number of alternative ideas.

Diagram cherry split Check out this diagram. There is no actual printed square, yet by splitting a target into halves, you can perceive a square where none exists (the curved sections end abruptly, so you see them as the edges of a square).

In the same way, by splitting attributes, Michalko feels you can shape and reshape components of a problem into new ideas. Here is a Cherry Split blueprint from his popular ThinkerToys:

  1. State the essence of your idea into separate into two words – For instance, if your challenge is ways of "improving community," the two-word phrase that captures the essence of your challenge is "improve community" as in this illustration.Image cherry split blueprint
  2. Split the challenge into two separate units – "Improve" leads one and "community" leads the other.
  3. Split each attribute into two more attributes – For instance, "improve" splits into "purpose" and "communication" while "community" is split into "enhance" and "magnify." Michalko says don't worry about the correctness of the split as no two people will split attributes in the same way.
  4. Continue splitting the attributes you feel you have enough to work – I strive for four to five splits. The more ideas, the merrier is my approach.
  5. Examine each attribute for ideas – The wonder of this method is that big ideas can dwell in the most insignificant attribute just as the flavor of the entire ocean is contained in one drop, Michalko advises.
  6. Try reassembling the attributes – New combinations can induce new perspectives and new ideas. Splitting a challenge into several attributes is like removing a dividing panel between chambers of very hot and very cold air: new forces rush together creating new ideas.

It is summer and brands are creating 2011 budgets, and you can probably get some great cherries at the grocery, so start cherry splitting for new ideas for your brand and organization AND for tasty fruit too!

Check out Michalko’s SCAMPER and BruteThink creative processes in these previous Enterprise newsletters.

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