10 Creativity Tools (Part 2)

10 Creativity Tools (Part 2)

Last week, I set out the first 5 creativity tools.  This post completes the 10.

Reverse Assumptions

It is all to common to adopt assumptions when none are stated. Furthermore, it is all too common to accept assumptions given. This tool enables the user to not take things for granted – challenge both given assumptions and assumptions which are assumed to exist through preconditioning or other influences. The process appears straightforward:

  • List the assumptions about the subject.
  • Reverse each assumption, ie what is its opposite?
  • Then review how to overcome or accomplish each reversal.
  • Finally, select one and work it up into a achievable idea.

In reality, it is more difficult to action as we are all preconditioned against looking at the opposite of the obvious. Nevertheless, there are merits of this system and it can produce good thoughts.

Attribute Association

This tool can be used to solve a known problem with a process or product, or identify new opportunities. Firstly, it is necessary to create a list of the attributes themselves. This can be management’s subjective view. or it can be based on market research of customers’ perceptions. Each of these attributes are then assessed against one or more of the following approaches:

  • How can the attribute be modified?
  • Can we remove or simplify any of the attributes?
  • Can we multiply the attribute? (for example, more than one blade razor)
  • Can we divide attributes? (for example split the grouping of processes or components)
  • Can we unify any attributes? (for example, assigning new functions to existing attributes)
  • Can we introduce cross-attribute dependency? (consider how pairs of attributes  are dependent, and through the development of new ones, add useful functionality)


This technique utilises questions to look at a problem from a variety of angles.  Originally developed by the CIA to help agents consider a challenge, it works as a creativity tool as well. The process is simple:

  • Write your problem, target the need for an answer, not necessarily the answer;
  • Ask questions, using the phoenix checklist;
  • Record the answers – information requests, solutions, and ideas for evaluation and analysis.

Examples of questions include:

  • Why is it necessary to solve the problem?
  • What benefits will accrue from solving the problem?
  • What is the unknown?
  • What is it you do not understand?
  • What is the information you have?
  • What isn’t the problem?
  • Is the information sufficient?
  • Should you draw a diagram?
  • What are the boundaries of the problem?
  • Can you separate the various parts of the problem?
  • What are the constants?
  • Have you seen this problem before?
  • Do you know a related problem?
  • Can you restate your problem?
  • What are the best, worst and most probable scenarios you can imagine?
  • Can you solve the whole problem?
  • What would you like the solution to be?
  • How much of the unknown can you determine?
  • Have you used all the information?
  • Can you separate the steps in the problem solving process?
  • What creativity tools can you use to generate ideas?
  • How many different ways have you tried to solve the problem?
  • What have others done?
  • What should be done?
  • Where should it be done?
  • When should it be done?
  • Who should do it?
  • How should you do it?
  • What do you need to do at this time?
  • Who will be responsible for what?
  • What milestones will mark your progress?
  • How will you know when you are successful?

Brainwriting 6-3-5

This is a modified form of brainstorming that encourages involvement from all participants. Having chosen the participants, the first round of idea generation takes place. Participants produce three written ideas on a sheet, in three columns. The worksheets are then passed around to the next participant who adds three new ideas or builds on the ones above. This continues until every participant has written three ideas on every worksheet. Having completed this, you can now discuss, clarify, refine, and combine similar ideas and then make a list for further analysis. Anyone who has played the game ‘Consequences’ or ‘Animal Consequences’ will understand the concept!

Open your Mind

This really isn’t a tool as such, merely a state of mind! To be more creative yourself, be yourself, expand yourself, open yourself. Read things which you would not normally read, talk to different people, look at different things, listen to different music, walk somewhere different, just do something different. Without a doubt, this will make you more creative!

That concludes this list of 10.

10 Creativity Tools (Part 1)

Creativity Tools

There is considerable debate about whether managers and staff in organisations can be creative given the constraints of the workplace. Personally, I think that there are enough different ways to be creative that the question is not whether they can be creative, but more one of how they can be creative, and is their creativity appreciated by senior management. It is often said that when staff are thinking (often staring into space or out of the window), the appearance is that they are not working. Again, this old-fashioned view should be expunged immediately. Appearances can be deceptive!

Here are 10 creativity tools which can be used – note the heading is not Top 10 Creativity Tools, merely 10 Creativity Tools – to stimulate thinking and ideas:

Five Ws, One H Technique

This technique can help enhance the understanding of the problem or opportunity – the Ws and the H can help identify ways to put into practice the ideas produced by the Ws. The Ws are obviously: ‘who’; ‘what’; ‘where’; ‘when’; and ‘why’?, and the H is ‘how’? This is a simple sounding technique which can be applied to a number of business situations such as strategy, decision-making and marketing for example.

Creative Challenge

This technique considers the current assumptions, beliefs, limitations, urban myths, legends, etc relative to the current situation, product or process. It questions three areas:

  • Can some part of the current method be eliminated?
  • What is the rationale behind the current method?
  • Do any alternatives exist to the current method?

The answers to these questions should lead to some ideas for further thought and investigation!

HIT Matrix

This matrix takes characteristics from two unrelated products or services to produce new ideas – think of the telephone and computer. Combine the characteristics and you get the internet! To produce a matrix, list different characteristics from one product/service on the horizontal axis and characteristics of the other on the vertical axis. Pair one characteristic from each item to complete the matrix cells. Finally, consider each pairing and pursue those which might lead somewhere.

It would be interesting to receive readers combinations – which could be published in a future post!

Left-Right Brain Alternations

This tool utilises the whole brain to solve a problem. Typical left brain functions include writing, logic, speaking, calculation and deliberation and in contrast our right brain controls our ‘softer’ abilities, such as art, visualisation, intuition and spatial perception. The creativity task can be formulated to require thinking from both sides of the brain with two columns on a white board being used to summarise the contrasting ideas.


This tool utilises a set of questions which could help improve your existing product or service. The name is made up of the first letter of the different elements:

  • Substitute – can any part of the product/service be substituted for something else?
  • Combine – What can be combined to create a different product or service?
  • Adapt – What can be adapted to improve the product, or eliminate a weakness?
  • Modify – Can we change any of the current solution to come up with any alternatives?
  • Put to other purposes – Can we use the current solution to help on another problem?
  • Eliminate – Can we eliminate or reduce any current parts of the product, method or problem?
  • Reverse – Can we change the order of any part of the process?

This should generate various ideas which can then be reviewed and considered.

Part 2 with the second five tools will be published next week.

Innovation Audits – Key Thoughts

Here are some interesting thoughts regarding innovation audits:

  • Innovation capability is widely recognised as a key competitive advantage. It is increasingly seen as critical to long-term profitability and survival. Indeed, it could be argued that without innovation, companies will be unable to survive in the longer-run.
  • Innovation audits review current innovation practices enabling the consultant to advise on alternative and additional measures and techniques that companies can adopt to improve and maximise their innovation capabilities.
  • Not only do such audits identify measures and techniques to improve innovation, but they can also identify barriers to successful innovation.
  • An innovation audit examines key indicators, determines strengths and weaknesses and identifies ways of improving innovation.
  • The benefits of the audit are as follows:
    • It enhances the company’s innovation capability;
    • It identifies opportunities for increasing innovation;
    • It clarifies where the organisation needs to focus to maximise innovation success;
    • It embeds innovation in the company’s processes;
    • It can build on individuals’ creativity to be innovative;
    • It can identify and control the barriers that stifle creativity and innovation;
    • It fosters innovation in the organisation’s culture; and
    • It can align the organisation in common purpose and action.
  • Innovation for Growth’s innovation audit is based on the following model. Each of the five ‘segments’ needs to be reviewed. In isolation, innovation capabilities will not be improved:

Innovation fo

  • The above model is one of a range of methods. Other methods include:
    • The Innovation Diamond – Considers innovation under four headings: Innovation strategy (and the tie in to corporate goals); Resources (commitment and portfolio management); Idea-to-launch System (Stage-Gate®); and Climate, culture, teams and leadership.
    • McKinsey 7S Framework: Strategy (strategic plans, innovation and change); structure (roles and responsibilities); systems (processes); skills; staff; styles (organisational culture);and shared values (vision and rewards).
    • A third approach is to consider innovation under five broad headings:
      • Strategy and leadership;
      • Organisation and culture;
      • Planning and selection;
      • Structure and presentation;
      • Communication and co-operation.
    • There are various other methodologies not articulated here.
  • One consistent feature is the need to ask questions, either via a questionnaire, and/or face-to-face.
  • As always, an innovation audit is only as good as the information provided!
  • The audit is only the first step in the innovation journey, and results will not be obtained unless the practical steps are implemented and strongly supported by the senior management and leadership.
Please help raise money for charity. Complete this short innovation survey, and 10p will be donated to charity (max £150).

Why is Innovation Important?

Why is Innovation Important?

Innovation is important on different levels and is also important for different reasons. It is important for nations and regions as it is an important driver of economic growth. For firms, there are a number of reasons as to why it is important.

Nations and Regions

Nations and regions see innovation as very important. It is a driver of economic growth. It is linked to increased welfare, the creation of new types of jobs and the destruction of old ones. In a recent book (2002), Baumol noted that ‘virtually all of the economic growth that has occurred since the eighteenth century is ultimately attributable to innovation’.

The Economic Intelligence Unit undertook a survey in 2007 which noted that ‘long-run economic growth depends on the creation and fostering of an environment that encourages innovation. Innovation is considered an important driver of long-term productivity and economic growth. It is argued that countries that generate innovation, create new technologies and encourage adoption of these new technologies grow faster than those that do not’.

Innovation Nation (2008) states that ‘innovation is essential to the UK’s future economic propserity and quality of life. To raise productivity, meet the challenges of globalisation and to live within our environmental and demographic limits, the UK must excel at all types of innovation’.


Recent surveys undertaken by the ‘Big’ consulting firms all confirm the view that innovation is important to firms.  Research undertaken by the Boston Consulting Group for their report ‘Innovation 2010. A Return to Prominence – and the Emergence of a New World Order’ ranked innovation as a strategic priority with 26% of respondents ranking it  a top priority and a further 45% ranking it as a top-three priority. Research undertaken by McKinsey  (McKinsey Global Survey 2010) supports this, noting that ‘84% of executives say innovation is extremely or very important to their companies’ growth strategy’.

Reasons why innovation is important to firms can summarised as follows:


  • To survive adverse changes in operating circumstances;
  • To make life easier for their customers and help them improve their businesses;
  • To gain competitive advantage;
  • To protect market share;
  • To reposition an organisation and raise its market profile;
  • To lead the market and reinforce a reputation as market leader;
  • To open new horizons so as to get out of a rut or avenues with limited potential.

External Forces

  • To comply with legislation (actual or anticipated);
  • To reduce competition and/or the influence of competitors.

People and Organisation

  • To stimulate staff with interesting and challenging work;
  • To attract and retain higher calibre staff;
  • To provide stability for the workforce;
  • To encourage those with good ideas to approach the company;
  • To attract alliance partners.


  • To attract extra funding;
  • To raise margins and profitability;
  • To drive total shareholder returns.

‘Innovation Management and the Knowledge Driven Economy’  (2004) notes that ‘in the knowledge-driven economy, innovation has become central to achievement in the business world. With this growth in importance, organisations large and small have begun to re-evaluate their products, their services, even their corporate culture in the attempt to maintain their competitiveness in the global markets of today’.

I hope that you will agree that innovation is important.