random word creative technique


Welcome to the Random Word tutorial

from Infinite Innovations Ltd
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This web page is a tutorial on just one part of "Brainstorming Toolbox" (the program for enhanced creative thinking and problem solving). Click here for a free 30 day trial of Brainstorming Toolbox

Click here to go to the random word screen and get your random word.


How to use the Random Word technique

Welcome to the Random Word technique, the most basic and obviously creative technique where you use a random word (hence the name!) to generate new ideas. By getting a the prompt and forcing yourself to find out how you can use it to solve your problem you are practically guaranteed to attack the problem from a different direction from that you would normally. You take a random word, extract the principles behind it and then apply those principles to your problem to see how it can help. The skill is stopping your mind from (a) thinking this is silly and (b) directly using the actual principle behind the word to your problem without changing it to a principle which is easier to apply.

The first thing you need is the Random Word itself which is classed as the initial stimulus. Then you establish a Bridging Idea which is an idea which is based on the stimulus. You then use this idea as a bridge between the stimulus and an idea which you could actually use on your problem.

Quick example 1:

Using a random word of "Balloon" in the context of new ideas about cars.

A Bridging Idea could be that you inflate the balloon under the car. The advantages of this would be that the car jack would not puncture rusty cars and that cars could be raised on soft ground.

The resulting final idea could be to have a car jack which spreads the load over the car and the ground.

Quick example 2:

Using a random word of "Spacecraft" in the context of new ideas about kitchens.

A Bridging Idea would be to consider what would happen if the kitchen was in space and what would happen because of gravity.

The resulting idea could lead to the fact that you would need to stop the pans from floating off the cooker/hob. This could lead to using magnets to hold the pans on (in the real world). This would stop small children from pulling the hot pans on to themselves. Or how about using a magnetic field to heat the pan?

In Brainstorming Toolbox there is a special section for making the Random Word technique come to life. In it you are automatically given a random word which the computer randomly picks from a comprehensive list of words. The easiest words to use are nouns because they have many real attributes and it is easier to imagine the actual object physically being used in any particular situation. But, because we can never presume that everyone will use the words in the same way, you have a choice between using random words from a list of (a) common nouns, (b) common words and (c) all words in the dictionary. It is recommended that you stick to the default of common nouns and as you become more skillful in using the technique perhaps trying the other alternatives occasionally to see what use you can give them. (Note there are over 4000 common nouns, 12000 common words and 50000 words in the corresponding options.)

This web version only uses 100 to show you how useful it can be. (Yes, we do hope you will buy the full version.)

One you have got a random word, there are many ways of using it including:

  1. Replacing the problem object with the random noun and imagining what would happen. (P.S. It is easier, safer and cheaper to first do this in your mind than in reality.) Think it over in your mind and see what you can get out of it. What does it remind you of regarding your own problem? What are the benefits from replacing it? If the benefits are original but unpractical, are there any ways you can get the same effect from a more practical means? If there are no benefits, what are the disadvantages and how might you counter them? (You cannot escape, whether you think it is good or bad to replace it. Both points of view can lead to new ideas!)

  2. Looking at the principles behind the random word and reapplying them to your own problem. How does the random object behave? Why does it behave like that? What are the characteristics of it? Why does it fit its own environment but hasnt been reapplied elsewhere? Now think of HOW you can apply the principles to your own problem. The skill is thinking How can we make this work? and disregarding any initial thoughts it will not work.

  3. Look at its benefits. Are they benefits you want? How can you get the same benefits for your own situation? How does the selected word achieve the benefits and how can you use that principle?

Use the following as an example:

You are working for a car manufacturer in the Wheel department and are trying to come up with some new ideas about the wheel without re-inventing it. And then you get given the random word of Toothbrush! What are your initial thoughts? ... How on earth is this relevant?, What a silly idea, they are totally irrelevant?. Before you go on, spend a couple of minutes coming up with some new ideas yourself.

Some example ideas you might have come up with (with some working through of the thinking process behind them which you wouldnt have to write down normally):

Replacing the wheel with a toothbrush:

Bridging Ideas:

Imagine the entire tyre of the wheel made of bristles of a toothbrush. What are the advantages?
  1. Much better grip in the snow.
  2. Small stones pass straight through with a minor disturbance Of the bristles. Cleans the road as it goes.

Resulting relevant Ideas:

  1. Create a snow tyre where the snow (or water) is forced though holes in the bottom of the tyre and shot through small tubes in the rubber out of the tyre and so relieve build up in the tyre grooves.
  2. Retractable spikes in the tyre.
  3. Dimples in the tyre so that small stones are not felt by the passenger.
  4. What other principles are there about toothbrushes?

Features of a toothbrush:

Bridging Ideas:

  1. Some toothbrushes change colour when they have been used for too long.
  2. Some toothbrushes squirt out toothpaste while you brush.
  3. They have springy handles to make sure you dont press too hard.
  4. They have ridges in so that at least some bristles get to the bottom of the dips in teeth.
  5. They come in plastic containers for travelling.
  6. You brush your teeth with them twice a day.

Resulting relevant Ideas:

  1. How about a tyre which had two layers of coloured rubber so that when the underneath layer showed, the tyre needed replacing. Also Police could spot bald tyres from a distance.
  2. Could a mini-camera spot oil on the road and spray out an oil remover or could the tyre eject salt in front of the car in the case of ice?
  3. Could the suspension be a flexible bit of metal instead of a spring and damper?
  4. If the rubber of the tyre was made of a mixture of hard and soft rubber then the hard bits would stick into the dimples in the road and stick better.
  5. Could we sell a cover for car wheels so that in snowy countries the wheels would not get blocked with snow? Could we use the cover to stop being wheel-clamped?
  6. Could we produce a device which measured the deterioration of the car tyre which each person could check everyday (if they wanted to!).

What are the benefits of a toothbrush?

Bridging Ideas:

  1. You dont get rotten teeth.
  2. It scrapes nasty stuff from your teeth.
  3. It makes your teeth feel clean and smooth.

Resulting relevant Ideas:

  1. Could we produce an X-ray device to measure the internal condition of a tyre.
  2. People often have to pick out stones from the tyre treads. We could make a Tread Comb to make this easier and encourage people to do it and so tyres would last longer. We could make it so it only fitted our tyres and customers would be more pleased how long ours lasted.
  3. Can we produce a tyre that sprays the ground water on to the car tyre and washes itself.

What do you have to be careful of when using the technique?

You must be careful of deciding that a specific word is of no use and getting another instead. If you do this then often you are just trying to choose a random word which fits into the problem you are trying to solve and therefore you end up with a word which is not random. Again, the skill is to work out HOW the word can be made to fit.

Be careful of creating too many steps in between the Random Word as a stimulus and coming up with a relevant idea, or you run the risk of ending up with an idea you already know works. e.g. A suggests B, which suggests C, which suggests D which is what we are already using

You also have to be careful of linking the word with an idea you already know about. You have to train your mind not to do this and should take the word at face value. You must guard against using the technique to come up with an old idea to show that the old idea is good. E.g. I already like the idea of using brushes on the inside of the wheel arches to clean the tyre so I will link Toothbrushes to a wheel to come up with the same idea. Wow, it must be a good idea because this random technique came up with it.

Other Factors for using the Random Word technique:

Some words will work and others will not, depending on the individual and the problem. No word is guaranteed better than another, it just depends on the situation. You could use a large number of words for each problem or a small number but if you find yourself using a large number then you should question yourself as to how you are using the word. You may be just searching for a word to fit with an idea you have already. Of course, sometimes using a continuous stream of different words can get a large number of ideas too, but ... cest la vie.

You can also use the Random Word technique for assessing the current situation. Often by having a word in front of you, you are stimulated to think about different aspect of the problem. E.g. When I brush my teeth the forces on the toothbrush are in all different directions, is there a problem with having suspension which only goes up and down? or When I was a child I hated brushing my teeth, is the problem with a lot of car journeys that the people in the back hate being there because they can not see anything?

Often using a Random Word can just remind you of something which you knew all along but you had forgotten to write it down in your investigation. If you have thousands of aspects to a problem then even if you know them all it is hard to remember them all when it actually comes to writing them all down. A Random Word can often help remind you of them again.

A similar technique is the Random Picture which uses a picture as a stimulus instead of a word. Some people find it easier to use words than pictures and other people the other way round whereas some people find both techniques work well for them but for different aspects of different probortunities. I am afraid you will just have to experiment.

Please try this technique for yourself and you will certainly improve at coming up with new ideas.

Click here to go to the random word screen and get your random word.


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