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Well kids, it’s a new week, and you know what that means: there’s a new book on innovation and creative thinking.

The Wall Street Journal featured an excerpt from “Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results,” (affiliate link) by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg, in its Review section complete with claims of a “radically different approach” to innovation. In the article Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg offer up five techniques integral to their “method” which “works by taking a product, concept, situation, service or process and breaking it into components or attributes.”

If you’re a regular Brainzooming reader, this will sounds familiar as the “Trait Transformation” or “SCAMPER” creative thinking exercise repackaged and offered up as something better and different than brainstorming.

Brainzooming-Before-AfterInside the Box and Creative Thinking

Wading into the five techniques, they are all either individual or combo versions of pretty classic creative thinking exercise approaches to modify something you have right now to come up with something new:

  • “Subtraction” involves REMOVING something from a product
  • “Task Unification” is another version of COMBINING features
  • “Multiplication” relates to the “M” in Scamper through MAXIMIZING a feature
  • “Division” is a combination of DO LESS and PUT TO ANOTHER USE.
  • “Attribute Dependency” is a more specific take on ADAPT.

So while the principles are completely sound, and the examples offered for each are intriguing (if somewhat dated in certain cases), the excerpt from “Inside the Box” suffers from the faux “this is a completely new way to innovate” theme that seems to bog down lots of innovation and creativity coverage in the Wall Street Journal.

Can you say, “Remember Jonah Lehrer?”

I WAS intrigued by how the combinations and slight variations on the trait transformers they discussed could lead to new potential ideas and solutions because they were more nuanced. We’ve modified previous transformers over time to create different directions for ideas (i.e., we use one story development version of Trait Transformation that ties to principles in “Made to Stick”).

Creative Thinking Exercise – SCAMPER Adapted

Thinking about all the “Inside the Box” article prompted coming up with other transformer questions we’ll be using in the future. Simply list a variety of attributes for a current situation and ask: How can this attribute be turned into . . .

  • A more positive feature?
  • A negative feature that leads to another way to solve it?
  • An attractive benefit?
  • Something caused by something else?
  • Something that causes something else to happen?
  • An enhanced variation of what the attribute is/does currently?
  • Individual pieces ripe for rearranging?

These questions are kludgey since they’re brand new ideas for questions and haven’t been refined through using and testing them yet. It does seem like there are real possibilities in here, though. Trying them out, I came up with a cool new possibility for configuring a shower and how its water is controlled.

Brilliant Blunders

The Kansas City Star ran a book review this weekend from Marcia Bartusiak of “The Washington Post” on “Brilliant Blunders” by Mario Livio (affiliate link). The book profiles scientific giants and the mistakes preceding some of their great discoveries.

The book review paints “Brilliant Blunders” in a great light, and included several good quotes, certainly suitable for future presentations:

  • “The road to triumph (is) paved with blunder.” – Mario Livio
  • “Mistakes do no harm in science because there are lots of smart people out there who will immediately spot a mistake and correct it.” – Linus Pauling
  • “To achieve something really worthwhile in research, it is necessary to go against the opinions of one’s fellows.” – Fred Hoyle
  • “The blunders of genius are often indeed the portals of discovery.” – Mario Livio

There you go – a new creative thinking exercise and quotes about brilliant blunders. You’re set for a great week of creative exploration! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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  • http://www.brainzooming.com Mike Brown

    From Alan Black who supplied this background on SCAMPER: “One minor footnote:S.C.A.M.P.E.R. was created by Bob Eberle (copyright is still owned by his family since his death in the early 2000s).”

    • Yoni Stern

      Of course, you are not the first to compare Systematic Inventive Thinking (www.sitsite.com) to SCAMPER. For a good explanation of some of the important differences between the approaches, see the TRIZ Journal correspondence from back in 2001 entitiled: SIT Compared to Scamper for Devising New Products
      http://www.triz-journal.com/archives/2001/12/d/default.asp?action=print