Imaginary brainstorming – a clever way to frame your thinking out of the box!

We all know the typical brainstorming process. While it has been a good tool and is still used today, it might not be as effective in bringing out truly radical ideas as we are still boxed in. If you are looking for truly novel ideas, try imaginary brainstorming!

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Form your problem statement

  2. Substitute key ideas with silly replacements

  3. Generate ideas to address your imaginary problem

  4. Extend your ideas back to your original problem statement

Let’s see how this works.

Suppose we have a problem statement like “How can I get my son to study harder?”

The key ideas in this statement are “son”, “study” and “harder”

We have one subject (son), one verb (study) and one adverb (harder)

Using random techniques, we substitute each key idea with a totally different one; e.g. “son” becomes “mouse”; “study” becomes “ride a bicycle” and “harder” becomes “upside down”

So now, the new idea is “How can I get my mouse to ride a bicycle upside down?”

Well, to do this, I need to:

  • Buy a specially made bicycle for mice

  • Teach the mouse to sit on his rear end

  • Teach the mouse to pedal

  • Give him motivation to pedal faster

  • Have tracks so that the bicycle can hang from the cage upside down

  • Teach the mouse to hang on with front paws on the bicycle

  • Must have something for the mouse to work towards else he won’t do it

Next, I want to extend this back to my problem statement.

The way I see this, my imaginary brainstorm has opened up interesting ideas for me to think about. The first is equipment. Does my son have the right equipment for studying? Not just books but a good table, good lighting?

The mouse needs to be trained to use the equipment. Does my son know how to use the equipment for studying? How to place the lighting in a way that makes it more conducive? How to use music to enhance learning? How to use images to help remember things? If he does not know how to do these things, how can I expect that he will do well?

The mouse needs to have motivation to go beyond his comfort zone. And have fun too. What sort of motivation am I giving to my son to make him work harder?

Suddenly, you will see all the things that may be missing in getting your son to learn better and harder. And you now know what else you can do to achieve that. You have now “thought outside the box” and moved away from “nagging” to managing his environment to get him to work harder!

So the next time you need a truly out of the box idea, try imaginary brainstorming. You might just see things in a totally different frame.

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