Use Ideatoons to Express, See & Think More Creatively

Ideatoons is a creativity device that allows you to express, see and think about your business challenge in a different and unique way by illuminating your challenge with pictures.

This excellent creativity tool is compliments of innovation expert Michael Michalko’s ThinkerToys. (Macali’s newsletters have reported on Michalko’s BruteThink, Split Cherry and SCAMPER creativity boosting tools).

Ideatoons is a visual thinking technique called pattern language. It was invented by architects Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein to create new building designs. The visual, flexible nature of pattern language makes it a useful creative device for seeing new and different relationships between attributes.

Here are the Ideatoons’ blueprint and entertaining and inspiring success stories:

  1. Divide your challenge into attributes (e.g. new product introduction – R&D, production, sponsorship, PR, retail displays, pro athletes, etc.)
  2. Photo Ads on Cows

  3. Describe each attribute by drawing an abstract graphic symbol (e.g. new running shoe – Nike swoosh, mesh construction, a marathon, running clubs, displays, etc.). Each drawing should represent a specific attribute and be on its own index card. Draw whatever feels right for you. Allow the image of the attribute to emerge in its own way – to state what it wants to say. On the back of the card, write the attribute.
  4. Place all of the index cards on a table with the graphic symbols facing up. Group and regroup the symbols randomly into various relationships. Try letting the cards arrange themselves without conscious direction, so they tell you where they want to be. Mix and match symbols to provoke ideas.
  5. Look for ideas and thoughts you can link to your challenge. Try to force relationships. Try free associating. Record the most idea-provoking arrangements. Physically rearranging your cards will invent new relationships and promote new ideas. Try turning your symbols upside down and sideways to generate new patterns.
  6. When stalemated, you may want to add other Ideatoons or even start an entirely new set.

Here are some great examples of successful Ideatoons creations from ThinkerToys:

  • A New Hampshire banker wanted to solve the problem of stolen checks and the act of using pictures itself prompted the idea of printing customer’s pictures on their checks.
  • A travel agent looking for ways to increase business drew pictures of everything meaning travel — airplanes, agencies, books, clothes, boats, CDs, DVDS, airport lounges, etc. He created a new concept for travel agencies — a travel center with lounges for viewing travel DVDS, private planning suites and a gift shop for selling books, DVDS, maps and even globes.
  • An ad executive specializing in small bus ads framed the problem: “In what ways might I create ads that once seen are never forgotten?” He considered several attributes — billboards, high traffic, buses, unique, media and memory. His bus symbol reminded him of a cow, so he created billboard advertising on cows. He located farms near high-traffic areas (e.g. airports), and convinced farmers to rent space on their cows on two-by-three pieces of oil cloth with ad messages. For an extra fee, he rented a cowbell to attract more attention. If the cow gives birth, the customer gets a sign on the calf for free. Billboards that have babies — what a value!

Thanks Michael for this great creativity tool. I am using it to develop a new brand building process for our clients. How can you use Ideatoons to boost your creativity and generate new ideas and growth?


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