Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘brainstorming tools’

There’s More to Hot Sauce than Meets the Tongue – How to Jumpstart Business Idea Generation

Posted by Plish on March 7, 2018

Hot sauces

They’re everywhere.  From mild to scorching, these heat packed condiments can perk up almost any dish – if perky is what you want.

How do we come up with new ways of growing a hot sauce business?

There are multiple ways to come up with new business ideas.  One of the processes I use for generating multiple ideas quickly is illustrated below.  It’s based on a simple process.

  1. List the traits/attributes of a specific product/service (I use VUE) Those are shown in purple in the concept map below. (Color coding helps tremendously in keeping track of ideas.  I could even do more color coding by group)
  2. Think of ways of enhancing or changing the attributes.  These are the ideas. These are shown in green.
  3. Let one idea lead to another – don’t censor yourself!

Hot Pepper Ideas-copy.pngThe PDF of the above document is here


This use of Attributes can be even further structured. While I just took traits as they popped into my mind, there are other tools that I use that are slightly more structured and they can be used to guide idea generation.

(In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m actually using these additional frameworks, it’s just second nature and I don’t think about it as much.)

It’s about POEMS

Not poetry, but POEMS. This acronym was developed by the folks over at the Illinois Institute of Technology-Institute of Design. The POEMS framework is not actually an idea generating tools per se.    It is a research framework. It provides a memorable way to code/categorize observations.  However, I use it  as a way to jump start ideation.

POEMS is an acronym for:






For each of the above, list everything you know about each one and then subtract, add or change the attribute.

People – Who uses this?  Using the Pepper Sauce example, people typically think of hot sauce as geared towards adults.  What about making a hot sauce for children?

Objects – What are the objects that people interact with?  Bottles, the sauce itself which is made up of vinegar, spices, sugar, peppers, etc.  Eliminate the bottles.  Eliminate an ingredient.

Environment – Where are the products or services used?  Where are hot sauces used? Kitchens, at the meal table, in a car.  Where can the use of hot sauces be extended?  Can where they’re made be changed?  

Messages/Media – What messages are typically conveyed?  What do labels and other media look like? For Hot Sauce, why do labels always using scary, intimidating images?  Can a container label be inviting and gentle?

Services – How are products delivered?  How are they sampled? How are they bundled?  What places have hot sauces?  There are health values to the capsaicin, what about selling that idea/product at boutique spas?  What about developing medicinally spike pepper sauces?  What could you add to give them more nutritional value?

If POEMS isn’t fruitful try AEIOU.

It’s similar to POEMS, but AEIOU gives a slightly different twist. Each framework can give you new ideas.

Activities – What do people want to accomplish, what needs to get done
Environments – The setting and context
Interactions – Are between people/people, people/objects, objects/objects
Objects – The things in the environment, things people use
Users – The people using the product, trying to accomplish something

So, there you have it.  What do you do to jump-start new ideas?

NOTE: If you actually want to try out a hot sauce idea, let me know 😉

Posted in brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, product design, Service Design, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Creative Dialogues With the Past Can Inform Design – Lessons Inspired by Kabuki

Posted by Plish on October 29, 2015

Great piece on the value of creative traditions over at Lateral Action – about how understanding them can lead to greater creative output.  Mark McGuinness talks about the 400+ year old, Japanese form of theater known as, Kabuki, how it’s a vital part of the Arts’ tradition, and how tradition and innovation can indeed go hand in hand.

Fascinating read. In addition, Mark has some wonderful advice for learning from a creative tradition.  It’s also a great summary of things to look at when designing new products.  When I prepare a group for a brainstorm I have them look at these very topics, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the parallels.  He summarizes beautifully:

Every creative tradition is a treasure-trove of inspiration and knowledge. Unless you know what past masters have done — and why and how they did it — you are limiting the palette of creative options available to you. So if you are serious about your creative discipline, you need to learn about its history and traditions.

Run through the following list and make a note of how well you know each category within your creative field:

  • Classic works
  • Contemporary works
  • The avant-garde
  • Works from your own country
  • Works from other countries
  • Critical reviews and studies

The list is great summary of what to look at when you need inspiration for solving a problem.

  1. Classic works >>how did people solve this problem in the past?
  2. Contemporary works >> How are people solving this problem now?  (These are the mainstream soluitions)
  3. The avant-garde >> What are people on the cutting edge doing to solve this problem?
  4. Works from this country and others >> People deal with problems in different ways in different parts of the world, or even in the same parts of the world!  Look for examples of Positive Deviance.
  5. Critical Reviews and Studies – Look in the literature.  This also includes patents.  I would also include Nature here.  Does anything in Nature resemble or shed light upon your current problem?

More great advice:

Do not avoid works or artists you don’t like. You don’t have to like everything, but if you want to be more than a keen amateur, you need some knowledge of every aspect of your field. Even if you only confirm your negative judgment, it’s better to do this from an informed position than dismissing things without getting to know them. And you might even surprise yourself by finding some diamonds in the rough.

Pay attention to those products that you don’t like as well as those you do.   How did they solve a problem?  Are they trying to solve the same problem you are?  Look for the method behind the madness.

When looking at the past,people tend to think that we’re going backwards.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Use those older designs and ideas as springboards for new ideas!

Don’t worry that your work will seem derivative or unoriginal. Treat these dialogues with the past as experiments, to be discarded if you don’t like the results.

Newer materials and manufacturing methods are constantly stretching the boundaries of what can be accomplished.  Very often past solutions can be given new life by changing the materials and manufacturing methods.  Adidas did this by utilizing 3D printing  in  the time honored running shoe.

Next time you’re confronted with a problem that needs to be creatively solved, spend some time dancing with the past and present.  Your future will contain innovative and creative solutions!

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Brainstorming Using Google Docs

Posted by Plish on August 6, 2014

I’ve never been a big fan of Google Docs.  Mostly because the majority of my clients don’t like having stuff in Google’s Cloud.  Nevertheless, I do see the value in having a common, online portal for collaboration.

So, when I saw this post at CrossWebIdeas on using Google Docs as a brainstorming hub, I was intrigued and excited.  It reminded me of days of yore when I used Posterous (remember Posterous?)  in a similar way.

It’s a pretty simple process actually: Upload a core document/drawing that functions as a seed to start the brainstorm and have people join in whenever they want to add or modify the document.

That’s pretty much it!

Check out how Google Docs was used for the ‘Novel In A Day’ Project.

One of the main things I want to look at is anonymity.  Some people are intimidated by other people’s personalities and/or status.  They are more likely to share their thoughts in low visibility situations.  Granted, there is some distance afforded via a web interface, but it’s still not perfect.  If Person A intimidates Person B, and Person A already has expressed an opinion in the forum, Person B may not write anything at all if it seems to contradict Person A.

I also prefer the power of drawing to text, so Google Drawings could be used instead of Google Docs, but, entering text on a laptop is much easier than creating a picture, so that’s the price paid for smoother collaboration.

Bottom Line: Using Google Docs in this way is fresh and innovative, and with the right group, I’ll give it a try.

What do you think?  Is this something you’ll do or have done?  If so, please share your thoughts!!

Thanks again to Don McLeman and Triberr for bringing this to my attention!

Posted in Co-Creation, Creative Environments, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Make Any Surface a “White Board” Surface

Posted by Plish on July 12, 2009

I really like dry-erase whiteboards.

They’re great for brainstorming, sketching up ideas, keeping track of deliverables in projects, and they’re wonderfully, (though sometimes too easily and other times impossibly) erasable.

Now you can turn any surface (usually a wall) into a dry-erase whiteboard with Idea Paint (Thanks to the W5 Blog!).

While I may paint a wall in the office, this has gotten me thinking beyond usage on walls…there’s some cool potential here.

How can you see this being used?

Posted in Creative Environments, idea generation, imagination, innovation, Innovation Tools, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Phrasr as Brainstorming Tool

Posted by Plish on January 4, 2009

In a recent blog comment here, Corrine ended her comment with the following statement:

“Science arose from poetry… when times change the two can meet again on a higher level as friends.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Then later today I received an email from the Creative Skills Training Council of Asia Pacific/Australia Yahoo group, about Phrasr and the digital poetry of Rip Kungler.  

It all came together for me…

Phrasr can be used as a great brainstorming tool! 

I entered in some key words describing the ultimate surgical instrument and let Phrasr go to town!

The result was nothing short of cool and inspiring!

The Ultimate Surgical Instrument (my Phrasr example)

Screen Capture of the Animation of "The Ultimate Surgical Instrument" (my Phrasr example)

While I didn’t have any particular instrument in mind, the pictures were obtuse enough to stimulate some unique ideas.   Ergonomic has some cool shapes to it that scream comfortable; The cat (pictured above) conjured up ideas of a retractable blade to prevent accidental cuts; The child viewing the animal from under the bubble: remote surgery and infection prevention to name a few.

Give it a try next time you need ideas and let me know how it worked for you!

It looks like Science and Poetry are meeting again as friends…

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Thinking Techniques, idea generation, Innovation Tools, Phrasr, Traditional Brainstorming, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Wiffiti as a Brainstorming Tool

Posted by Plish on December 22, 2008

What a wiffiti page looks like

Click this image to see my LIVE Wiffiti screen!

When great ideas strike it’s important to record them ASAP.  In a brainstorming session it’s important to capture ideas as they materialize.  It’s also important to build off of other people’s ideas on an anonymous basis.

Enter Wiffiti.

This tool enables you to capture ideas via text messages.  You simply text a message to an address and it shows up on the screen.  You can use it for yourself or as a team.  If each team member is texting their ideas (and no name codes-anonymous is better!) when they get back to their offices they can look at the screen and use it to create more ideas.

I’ve created a page for this blog so you can see it in action. You can click the above picture (or here) to see the live Zentest Screen.  Start your message with “@zentest” and then type in your message.  Send it to 25622. 

Wiffiti still isn’t configured for USCellular (which is what I have) so I have to rely on your messages to get this going.

Locamoda is the developer of Wiffiti, you can check out ways other companies have used it here.

Posted in idea generation, Innovation Tools, Traditional Brainstorming, Web 2.0, Wiffiti, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Great, Creative Modeling Tool – Bendaroos

Posted by Plish on December 16, 2008

I received an email I knew was SPAM. It was entitled “Re: Amazing Flexible Building Sticks.”

I opened it and the kid inside me jumped up and down.  I clicked and went to the Bendaroo website

I was greeted by an obnoxious promo video, but I looked past that and was smitten by the coolness of this product.

Why am I high on this?

It’s a great tool for brainstorming and idea generation.  Anytime you can play with things with your fingers you can and will increase your creative output.  The fact that this stuff is reusable is a bonus.

Unleashing your playful side is a must if you want to optimize your creativity.  A product like this (which I get no money for promoting I might add!) get’s two thumbs up and deserves to be in any creative person’s toolkit.

Posted in Brain Stimulation Tools, Creativity Leadership, idea generation, toys, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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