“There is pleasure in recognising old things from a new viewpoint.” — Richard Feynman
PROCESS : CREATIVE THINKING
This week, I’d like to share one of the methods I use. It originates from Alex Osborne (1953), and was further developed by Bob Elerle (1971).
Take it as a guide for reframing and ideation or “thinking out the box”. This is one of hundreds of techniques I’ve learnt along the way. Creativity is more fun when you alternate intuition with evaluating and analysing. As you need to use head, heart and hands. When you do anything often or daily, even when starting with heart and head, it starts to become routine and you become automatic in your thinking. Reduced to only hands.
This is a big danger as a Creative, as you risk being closed minded or thinking only in loops. (I hope that makes sense, but that’s the only way I can explain it). I’ve found that the best way to adjust this, is by always doing it differently. Whether working on different projects from various industries, working with different people or just changing your process each time.
Each project I begin, I try new methods to complete the task, so that I’m trying to always look at it as a newbie/beginner, to ensure I don’t get stuck in old or limited thinking or processes. Think of it as the reverse of dé·jà vu
vuja’ de’ : when something familiar or common is viewed with new eyes or a fresh perspective
You can’t always rely on intuition or talent. But you can test your intuition through process. Being creative is a lifestyle. It’s not something you do just once in awhile. You can use it in every avenue of your existence. Both in work and in your personal life. Everyone is creative, but not everyone acknowledges it. People have portrayed designers/artists as flaky or scatterbrained, while others think that creativity lacks thinking.
In reality, being creative, is the use of all the cognitive functions (and breaking down of your own perceptions to aim for objectivity). Namely, the use of “thinking”, “feeling”, “sensation” and “intuition” …but most importantly to close the circle…there has to be “doing”.
Most don’t realise the amount of thinking/questioning/feeling dedicated to an idea/concept, and the decisions which need to be made to ensure that the idea is communicated effectively.
I’ve learnt however that it’s less messy, to increase the thinking and evaluation process instead of getting stuck in the feeling and intuition side. When you feel too deeply or love an idea, you tend to not look any further; thus limiting yourself and possibilities.
The method below, is not prescriptive. It’s just one of many ways to rethink problems & solutions. Obviously, the more you know about the subject and other subjects, the better this process will be. As you’ll have more arsenal in your tool box to reference from. If you’re working alone, make sure you research as much as you can about the subject/user/global trends/anything. Ideally, this would can also be great in a team. You decide.
Strategy: S.C.A.M.P.E.R technique
Method: Questions Used for: adapting what exists into something different.
SCAMPER is an acronym for:
Combine with something else
Adapt something to it
Put to some other use
Eliminate something (what’s irrelevant?) — Hack away at the unessential
Let’s work on an example together, to show you how it works:
“How might we better prepare (all) learners for the future by reimagineering the education system?”
Let’s first identify all the stages in the education process:
acquisition of :
Let’s isolate one area, then apply SCAMPER to that step, (thereafter we’ll apply the SCAMPER questions to the other areas in the process)
Acquisition of skills:
First research everything (especially alternative problem questions). Research all you can on the subject and selected isolated area — whether you’re an expert or not, research is always critical:
What are the current ways skills are acquired in schools/ learning institutions locally and globally? What are the current methods, practices or procedures? What are the internal and external pressures? What are current assumptions and values in the present process? What are current needs, desires and pain points? What are potential causes and effects? Is the current model sustainable? What would make it sustainable if it already isn’t? What needs to change? Who’s doing something different or unconventional? Does it work? Why does it work? How has the process changed over the years? And why? And what was the results? What was it before? What’s changed? What’s better or worse? Of those current skills, which are relevant? Which are valuable? Which are useless? Which skills are of the most importance to help children to prepare them for tomorrow? What skills will they need tomorrow? What will the future be like? How many companies re-train their staff when they hire them? Why? Does this imply that they don’t have the skills required? How do we ensure skills are relevant? How do we measure skill? How are these skills gained? Are the methods in teaching or learning effective in helping students acquire the right skills? Are there “right” skills? How would we determine the right skills when everyone is different? How do we give each student the best chance of the future? By nurturing their strengths and weaknesses to develop into the best version of themselves? Do we aim for specialists or generalists? Does it matter? What would ensure that their skills are best utilised once they leave formal institutions and reduce retraining? How do students focus on skills when most don’t know what they want to do in the future? Should there even be formal institutions? What are the legal implications and ethical considerations? Is helping students acquire skills the teachers responsibility? Is it the parents responsibility? Is it the students’ personal responsibility? How do we instill a love of life-long learning or make the search for knowledge a habit or social standard? What are potentially the future needs, desires and pain points? Who/what could affect or impact a change in process? Negatively? Positively? How to prepare? How do we show humanity that not only what is taught, and how it’s taught is critical? How do we show that HCD is important, but of equal importance is planet too. What could that future be like? Can we plan for it? Can we choose now to create that future by what we implement today? Possible results/impact?
What can be substituted?
Who else? What else? Where else? When? How? Can the rules be changed? Other approach? What else instead? Other process/procedure?
How can I combine gaining skills with some other purpose or process?
Which ideas can be combined? Combine subjects? Places? Lessons? How would I package the combination? Combine appeals to multiply possible users? How would I combine to make it universal?
What can I adapt from someone else’s method?
Does the past offer a parallel? What failed, what worked & why? What different contexts can I put this concept in? What ideas can be incorporated? Who could I emulate? What else can be adapted?
How can I modify or alter the way we gain skills?
How can it be altered for the greater good? What can I make better? What changes can be made in planning, process or society?
What can I magnify or add to the way we gain skills?
What can be added? More time? Length? People? What can be made larger or extended? How could I carry it to the extreme?
How can I put acquiring skills to other uses?
Are there new ways to use this? Other uses if modified? Other extensions or markets?
What can I eliminate from the way we gain skills?
What if this was smaller? What can be left out? Divide/Split into different parts? Streamline? Compact? Can the rules be eliminated? What is unnecessary?
What is the reverse of obtaining skills?
What are the opposites? What are negatives? Positive? Can I invert negative and positive? Should I turn it around, upside down, backwards? Reverse roles? Reverse services?
What rearrangement of gaining skills might be better?
What other arrangement could be better? Other pattern/ sequence? Change order? Invert cause and effect? Change length, pace, schedule?
Asking SCAMPER questions helps to trigger imagination. After that continue with
“How can…?” “What else…?” “How else…?”
If you do this for each stage in the identified process, you’ll be able to create the maximum number of ideas for improving existing processes/products/anything.
Think of it as a more structured version of brainstorming.
It’s a never ending process, not a once off thing. You’ll find that you’ll always keep thinking of how else?, what else?, what if?…weeks, months and years after initial concept. Especially if you haven’t put in the doing after the thinking. Once you’ve conceived something, it becomes very difficult to let it go, unless you make an effort to create it and get it out of your head/heart.
Sometimes to clear your head and make space for new ideas, you will have to complete the conceived ideas. Or at least set up a process to evaluate which ideas are worth keeping and investing your time in vs. which ideas you should overwrite.
I’ll leave you with some inspiration…excerpts from one of my favorite Carl Sagan speeches:
“The significance of our lives and our fragile planet, is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage…We are the custodians of life’s meaning…
…but knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth, than a reassuring fable…
Our common sense intuitions can be mistaken, our preferences don’t count. We do not live in a privileged reference frame. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.”
— Carl Sagan
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