The Idea Box: On command creativity tool for creatives and non-creatives

A few days ago, I provided you with some questions to find hidden pain points. Well, after finding those pain points, the next step is to ideate ways to alleviate those pains.

How do you start?

Steve Jobs famously said that creativity is just connecting things. And he is right, combining ideas is one the most productive ways to generate non-linear solutions. Below I’ll show you a well known creative technique that is designed to help people generate creative combinations.

The Idea Box creative tool

Although I’ve talked about my disgust with template thinking, I do use some tools to get my creative juices going. And because last week, at a workshop, I noticed some people who were creatively blocked. And, as soon as I showed them this tool, it was as if they seen anew!

Anyway, here is a very simple, and effective, creative tool that can do the same for you. All you’ll need is pen and paper. Nothing more!

The Idea Box looks like the following sketch I was working on a few nights ago:

idea box creativity tool

Image: My Instagram

The point of doing this exercise is to think about options by breaking your challenge down into parameters and variations.

In the example above, my challenge was: How might we design an online-only innovation workshop?

Next, I broke the challenge down into its respective parameters  ̶  location, content, duration, format, number of people, etc.  ̶  and variations. The next step, is to combine different ideas to come up with a concept.

Specifically, here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Specify the challenge. As I did at the top of my sketch, write down your challenge. It can be a statement or question.
  2. Select the parameters of your challenge. Horizontally, write down some parameters about your challenge.
  3. List variations. Under each parameter, write down different variations of that parameter.
  4. Try different combinations. Run through the list and select one or more from each column and then combine them into entirely different forms.

Usually, it is good practice to establish some criteria about your challenge. But, for this specific challenge, I didn’t set any specific criteria, because I just wanted was to get my creative juices going. For that reason, I think this is a valuable tool that creatives and non-creatives can use to generate creative ideas.

For a more robust tool that uses criteria and takes a deeper dive, check the What Works Matrix. Which is a hybrid of this tool and other creative methods.


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