Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The most under-appreciated approach to idea-generation


It's a key source of humor. It makes people crazy. It's scary when it involves your fortune. And it's a great source of new ideas that make people go, "Wow!"

Through the joys of the Twitterverse, a friend told me about "Dictator Goods," which offers a line of "greeting cards" featuring some rather dark quotes from some even darker historical figures. The cover seems normal and benign enough. "Gratitude" it says, elegantly letter-pressed on rich cotton stock. Then you open it up to see the rest of a quote attributed to Joseph Stalin: "...is a sickness suffered by dogs."

"Wow," indeed. That gets your attention!

While I'm not sure I'd send these out as thank you notes to my clients, these cards are a perfect demonstration of the principle of "reversal" that is useful when generating ideas. The reversal principle works like this:

1) Consider your product or category

example 1: thank you note cards

example 2: Dentyne Ice Mints

2) Take an attribute of the product/category

example 1: thank you note cards make people feel appreciated

example 2: Dentyne Ice mints provides cooling refreshment

3) Completely reverse the attribute

example 1: add a quote that makes people feel that appreciation is over-rated!

example 2: and thus were born Dentyne FIRE mints that provides the spicy hotness of cinnamon

Try it for your offering. Put yourself into a divergent mindset (defer judgment, strive for 30 ideas, combine and build on ideas, seek wild ideas). Then think about a key attribute of your offering, and see what happens when you completely reverse it. You may not get a "Wow!" right away, but you never know when you'll come up with something compelling like:

- Powdered drinks

- Bagels on cream cheese

- Chocolate that contains something savory

- Computers that you write on like an actual paper note-pad

- An entire audience cheering for the wicked witch instead of Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz"

After all, remember that when you reverse "wow," you get "wow!"

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