Ten Creative Tools

“It’s tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything like a nail.” In this memorable line, Abraham Maslow nails (forgive the pun) the problem of innovation. Too many of us only have one or two ways of working. That means we come at problems the same way again and again. Sure, it works. But will it keep working as the world around us changes? And will the same-old approach ever produce surprisingly new ideas?

Remember the Orange Test? Try it again, but this time with different colours. What’s the first thing you write down for white, green and blue? I bet it’s snow, grass and sky or sea.

Under pressure, your first answer will be obvious. So you have to push beyond your first answers to get to new and unusual. The best way to prompt this kind of divergent thinking is to say to yourself (or others) “Yes, what else?” every time you come up with an idea.

Tools 1 & 2 help you come up with lots of options right at the start, when you are looking at the problem you’re trying to solve:

  1. Why? What’s Stopping You?
  2. Questions for Insights

Tools 3 – 8 help you find lots (and I mean LOTS!) of possible ideas in response to your creative challenge:


4. Brainwriting

5. Lateral Nudge

6. Break the Rules

7. Steal from the Thesaurus

8. The Shock of the Old

The last two tools give your new ideas growing space and spot the problems that might be lurking behind them.

9. Pluses, Potentials and Concerns

10. Pre Mortem

And remember, as Margaret Heffernan says, “great ideas don’t come from offices”

The worksheets from this session are downloadable here as PDFs.

The slide deck is downloadable here as a Keynote file (117Mb).

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