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‘Think differently’ is one of those things that is easier said than done. Our experience is the bedrock of our insight and the springboard to our ideas. But it can also give us a creative blind spot or turn us off something that feels different to anything we’ve experienced before.

In our Creative Problem-Solving Workshops, we often use NESTA’s Fast Idea Generator to really push the boundaries of imagined solutions. We are deliberate in wanting to ‘surface the silly’ as it allows us to interrogate whether this feels silly because it’s not feasible or whether it’s silly because it’s new to you.


1. Clearly identify the problem 
As a general rule, if you can’t express it simply and fit it neatly onto a post it then you need to drill down on what the issue is. You need to make sure you’re not linking the ‘why’ to the problem just yet. The problem should be articulated from the customers perspective “The waiting time to see my GP is two weeks.” and not “the number of complaints we receive about waiting times is growing and using resources.”

2. Use the prompts to break the rules 
This tool helps to get you in the mindset of ‘breaking the rules’ so consider each of the 9 prompts as a challenge. In the first column you name features of the current solution(s) and you stretch that reality in the second column. Set a timer to 10 minutes and aim to note down a list of ideas, however radical.

Here is an example linked to our problem above:

  • Invert - turn common practice upside down - GP calls you to see if you’re healthy.
  • Integrate - blend other customer solutions in use - fast track appointment via skype.
  • Extend - extend the offer - more GP appointments available and 24 hours a day.
  • Differentiate - tailor more than one solution - GP based in schools for kids and workplace for employees.
  • Add - add something not normally there - an app sends your daily vital stats to GP software and highlights if you’re a priority appointment.
  • Subtract - take away a regular feature- no GP buildings, home visits only.
  • Translate - take inspiration from different field- like police offers, GPs have a ‘beat’.
  • Graft - weld on another feature of practice - GP check attached to all dental apps.
  • Exaggerate - Push to the extreme - GP housed in every UK street.

3. Question the current solution in light of the new 
Look again at all of the solutions you have thrown out - are the barriers to each of these real or perceived. Do any jump out as intriguing either standalone or alongside another? This activity should plant some seeds. Take that seed and move forward, considering the problem once again.

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Idea Generation | PDF

Fast Idea Generator