Sunday, October 09, 2005

Working with aliens

Not an episode of Star Trek but one of my favourite techniques for a) generating results b) getting a reaction from colleagues.

This technique is one of a series in which random stimuli are used and alternative viewpoints are adopted. It works best with well defined problems or where new products or services are being considered.

To start, define the problem or situation as best you can and brief those who are taking part. A group of half a dozen or so is ideal.

Imagine that an alien spaceship has landed on earth and the aliens are looking at your problem or the object that you have described. Next try to imagine what sort of questions the aliens would be asking, what would they be curious about? Many of the checklist techniques can provide some guidance here. A possible list could be:

  • What is the purpose of this?

  • How does it work?

  • Why does it have to be this way?

  • Why do these earthlings use these materials?

  • Is it useful to me?

  • Why does this matter, and to whom?

  • Is it worth any money?

  • Is there any other value?

  • Could it be used for …..?

These (and other questions) should be asked with childlike innocence i.e. assume no familiarity with earthly concepts.

The questions may throw up some ideas which indicate that the original starting point was flawed. If this is the case then revisit the problem definition stage of the creative problem solving process. If some common themes emerge then record these and use them as random stimuli for further excursions or use a form of association to group some of themes to see if they suggest further options, choices or ideas.

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