Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Turning bad ideas into great solutions

Scott Adams, the virtual father–and-mother of Dilbert, writes about an interesting creativity technique:

I spent some time working in the television industry, and I learned a technique that writers use. It's called "the bad version." When you feel that a plot solution exists, but you can't yet imagine it, you describe instead a bad version that has no purpose other than stimulating the other writers to imagine a better version.

For example, if your character is stuck on an island, the bad version of his escape might involve monkeys crafting a helicopter out of palm fronds and coconuts. That story idea is obviously bad, but it might stimulate you to think in terms of other engineering solutions, or other monkey-related solutions. The first step in thinking of an idea that will work is to stop fixating on ideas that won't. The bad version of an idea moves your mind to a new vantage point.

Essentially, the goal is to shift your thinking from a real-world implementation to the outcome you want to achieve by whatever means possible: flying monkeys, gnomes, magic wands, and etc. Maxwell's demons would also be great candidates for implementing a "bad version" that eventually leads to great solutions.

TRIZ has at least two tools to accomplish a similar goal: The Ideal Solution technique and The Gnomes method (often called the Smart Little People method - argh! what an ugly translation from the original Russian Метод Маленьких Человечков).

tags: ideality, creativity, imagination, psychology, triz, method,

1 comment:

Mark Plus said...

Thanks for the reference to Scott Adams's essay. I've applied his idea to Eric Drexler's nanotechnology "the bad version" of futuristic solutions to certain medical problems.

BTW, what happened to your book? Amazon claims it has gone out of print already.