Random Object Creativity Technique

Creativity Techniques

Michael Michalko shares the random object creativity technique for generating relevant ideas to inspire creativity and enhance connective thoughts.

The random object creativity technique generates an almost infinite source of new patterns to react with the old patterns in your mind.

Connecting The Unconnected

Random words are like pebbles being dropped in a pond. They stimulate waves of associations and connections, some of which may help you to a breakthrough idea. There are several ways to select a random object. You can retrieve random words from a dictionary by opening it, by chance, at any page, closing your eyes and randomly putting your finger on a word. If the word is not a noun continue down the list to the first noun, Another way is to think of a page number (page 22) and then think of a position of the word on that page (say the tenth word down). Open the dictionary to page 22 and proceed to the tenth word down. If the word is not a noun continue down the list until you reach the first noun.

You can use any other resource (e.g., magazine, newspapers, books, telephone yellow pages, etc.). Close your eyes and stab your finger at a page. Take the noun closest to your finger.

EXAMPLE: I usually retrieve five random words when I use this technique. Suppose our challenge is to improve the automobile. The group of random words we blindly drew from the Random Words list are:

  • Nose
  • Apollo 13.
  • Soap
  • Dice
  • Electrical outlet

(1) LIST CHARACTERISTICS

Work with one word at a time. Draw a picture of the word to involve the right hemisphere of your brain and then list the characteristics of the words. Think of a variety of things that are associated with your word and list them.

For example, some of the characteristics of a nose are:

  • Different shapes and sizes
  • Sometimes decorated with pins and jewels
  • Has two nostrils
  • Can be repaired easily if broken
  • Hair inside
  • Decays with death

(2) FORCE CONNECTIONS

Make a forced connection between each characteristic and the challenge you are working on. In forcing connections between remote subjects, metaphorical-analogical thinking opens up new pathways of creative thinking. Ask questions such as:

  • How is this like my problem?
  • What if my problem were a…?
  • What are the similarities?
  • …is like the solution to my problem because…?
  • How …like an idea that might solve my problem?

EXAMPLE: Connecting a “nose” has two nostrils with improving the “car”, triggers the idea of building a car with two separate power sources; a car with battery or electric power for city driving and liquid fuel for long distances.

(3) WHAT IS ITS ESSENCE?

What is the principle or essence of your random word? Can you build an idea around it? For example, the essence of a nose might be smell. Forcing a connection between a smell and improving the automobile inspires the idea of incorporating a cartridge in the auto during manufacturing that warns the driver of malfunctions with various odors. If you smell orange blossoms, for example, it’s time to have your brakes checked, or if you smell cinnamon, you might have a gasoline leak and so on.

For each random word, list the principle or essence, characteristics, features and aspects and force connections with the challenge. Another example is derived from the random word Apollo 13. Astronauts used the LEM as an emergency alternative power source in Apollo 13 in order to return to earth. Connecting this thought with the automobile led to the re-design of the automobile engine so that it can be used as an emergency power generator for the house during power failures. E.g., plug the house into the car.

(4) CREATE MANY CONNECTIONS

When using the Random Word list, use all five words in the group and force as many connections as possible. Allow yourself five minutes for each word when you try it. Five minutes should be ample time to stimulate ideas. You should find that long after the fixed time period of five minutes, further connections and ideas are still occurring.

ROULETTE

Imagine that you are invited to play roulette with someone else’s money. You can keep your winnings but your losses are paid for you. It’s a game of chance you can not lose. You can never be sure of winning on any particular bet, but you know that if you played long enough you would win, sooner or later. Chances are you would play as often as possible despite the unpredictability of the game. You would play as often as you could, in order to increase your chance of winning.

Using this model, it is possible to see what can be done about randomly connecting unrelated subjects in thinking. The first step is to be aware that there is the possibility of this thinking strategy. The second step is to learn how to do it. The third step is to use this strategy as often as you can and to get rid of any inhibitions which interfere with your using it. The more times you use it and the more different ways you use it, the more you increase your chances of coming up with original ideas and creative solutions to problems.

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