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Creativity Methods Index

A creativity method is a specific technique meant to stimulate developing a new solution to some problem.

Creativity methods

Brainstorming Brainstorming is a well-known group creativity method. What is brainstorming? Brainstorming is a group-based technique for developing innovative solutions. The idea is that talking about a problem with others will generate new thoughts and ideas that no individual would have thought of on their own - it promotes synergy by getting people to collaborate positively. However, brainstorming is not just having a casual conversation with your teammates. It is directed very specificall…
Challenge Assumptions <A military aircraft (the Su-47) with forward-swept wings.> The angle of the “V” between the two sets of cylinders in a V-8 auto engine is 90 degrees. Why? What's so magical about 90 degrees? Why was a 90 degree V chosen to begin with? What was the original problem that the V solved? Are there any other solutions? Are there any new technologies, materials, or methods that make those other solutions better than the actual one?
Change Physical Phenomena Given an existent design that uses one physical phenomenon, a new, creative design may arise by trying to use a different phenomenon. Consider the transformations provided of a particular device and look for different ways of achieving the same transformation.$E=mc^2$
Change the Problem Source Sometimes the source of the problem can be altered to either eliminate the problem or direct it to another part of the product where it can more easily be treated. For example, you are designing the structural elements of a forklift. Loads being passed to the structure near the lifting motors are very high; designing for them will require thick, heavy components that will dangerously raise the centre of gravity, and interfere with the operation of the forklift. The pr…
Confront the Problem Is the problem a real problem, or is it one imposed through some ad-hoc agent, and that can, if treated appropriately, vanish? For example, you are working on the design of a building's HVAC system, and you are told what flowrate of air is expected in a particular area of the building. Your preliminary calculations indicate that ductwork would need to be so massive as to require a redesign of the walls of the rooms. You trace the flowrate requirement back to a particular c…
Delphi Technique Assuming you've read about generic brainstorming, the Delphi Technique is easy. * Begin by having each member anonymously come up with one or two solutions to a problem. * Distribute the anonymous solutions to everyone in the team and ask each person to rank the solutions, giving reasons for the ranking.
Design by Analogy It is possible to develop inventive design solutions by looking for analogies in other contexts. What is an analogy? An analogy is defined in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as: * inference that if two or more things agree with one another in some respects they will probably agree in others
Design by Attribute Sometimes, changing one attribute of one component of a design can lead you to an entirely different design. Overview A design can be thought of as a collection of attributes of its components. Change one attribute, and the whole design can be radically altered. So if you're looking for an innovative design, you can try to start with a known design, and then study its attributes and see what happens when you change them.
Design by Inversion Inversion is a classic technique to solve design problems that involves exchanges functions between conventional systems or components. Butcher's Meat Saw Consider a simple hacksaw for wood (which was invented before the meat saw). In operation, the wood is held still, and the saw is passed over it to cut it. In a butcher's meat saw, on the other hand, the meat is held on a tray and passed by a fast-spinning, but stationary, rotary saw. That is, for the hacksaw, the saw mo…
Design by Isolation Can the effects of the problem be isolated to particular systems or subsystems of a product, thereby allowing designers to focus their attention on it and not having to involve every designer on the project? You are designing a pumping facility for volatile chemicals. Electric motors are used as components, but are found to be generating too much heat and there is a risk of explosion as a result. The motors could be insulated thermally but this introduces two new problems. …
Design by Reversal While design by inversion focuses on changing a design idea or concept, problem reversal focuses on changing how you think about the problem itself. Consider this example. If the problem is one of stopping a leaky roof, then the reverse is to stop a leaky floor – i.e. rather than stopping the leak in the roof, vent the leak to the floor (and then just drain it). Obviously you can't just reverse one problem and solve it in a trivial way. The point of reversing a problem is t…
Design by Separation Closely related to design by inversion, design by separation is based on separating functions that may typically exist in a single part or assembly. Separation in time Separate functions that would normally occur together or in parallel, so that they occur individually, or in series.
Divide and Conquer A problem which seems difficult can sometimes be handled by breaking into a series of subproblems such that the solutions of those subproblems can then be put together to solve the original, difficult problem. Examples of this abound even in everyday life. The trick to this approach is that many people divide the problem badly. For example, a robotics company divides the design of a new robotic manipulator into segments based on the classical engineering disciplines: mechani…
Oppose Convention Conventional solutions are “easy” because they're known to work. Sometimes, it pays to head in an entirely different direction, albeit only with respect to part of your design intervention. Identify a characteristic or embodiment of a conventional design, then find the
Riddles and Puzzles Riddles and puzzles can help exercise the creative parts of your mind. Riddles are puzzles that are usually based on partial, vague, or mis-interpretable information. Riddles are also usually intentionally ill-structured. Puzzles are questions intended to be solved by non-conventional means. Being able to solve riddles and puzzles is a good indicator that you can
Random Word Ideation This creativity technique takes advantage of the human brain's ability to free associate words, concepts, and ideas to promote innovative design ideation. Overview By the time you understand the current and preferred situations well enough to start designing interventions, you will also likely already have preconceptions of what will constitute a good design. This is an unavoidable property of the human mind. However, it's unlikely that any of the preconceived designs wil…
Riff by Attribute Often, finding an innovative solution is based on finding similarities between things that might not usually be considered similar. Identify a key characteristic or function of a conventional solution. Then think of as many other designs that share that one characteristic only. Once you have thought of as many alternatives as possible, go through them and weed out the silly ones.
SCAMPER Method The SCAMPER method is a relatively well-known, qualitative method to think about current designs to look for opportunities to innovate. Overview The SCAMPER method was invented by Alex Faickney Osborn in 1953. Osborn also invented brainstorming. It is a method of focus one's attention on specific ways one can change existing designs to create something new.
Transpose Context Sometimes, a good idea already exists, but not in the domain in which you're working. Given a known design concept or idea, think of similar designs that works in an entirely different situation. Then try to pull that other thing into your current situation.
TRIZ TRIZ is based on finding ways to resolve contradictions in designs and products. This is a very brief introduction. Background TRIZ was invented by Genrich Altschuller, a Russian patent clerk. He noticed that many patents were solving very similar generic problems. Eventually, he analyzed over 200,000 patents and noted that most inventions were about
Tweak the Obvious Not all great ideas start great; some of them start as a very minor change to some existing design intervention. Think of the obvious, conventional solutions, and then “tweak” them a little to address your requirements better.
Why Why Why Given any statement, you can always ask why? In design, asking why? is a simple and surprisingly effective way of uncovering hidden or implied assumptions, issues, and contradictions. The purpose of this method is to get one closer to the root causes of undesired situations. Understanding root causes is important for devising the best possible solution.

Other Resources

The function database maintained by CREAX may be a useful tool to look for embodiments in the domain of physical/mechanical technologies and principles. To use the database, you must identify a function to be carried out, and the state of matter (solid, liquid, gas, or field) on which you are operating. The application then presents a variety of embodiments that can provide the necessary function working on the given state of matter. Obviously, the CREAX database is not exhaustive, but it can provide useful suggestions.

Siemens Pictures of the Future is an archive of concept designs developed by Siemens for a diverse range of domains.

Check various gadgetry blogs, like Gizmodo.

Here is an excellent (and very funny) lecture on creativity by John Cleese.

Try some puzzles and riddles intended to help you think “outside the box.”

design/creativity_method.txt · Last modified: 2020.03.12 13:30 (external edit)