Exploring Idea Exploration

There are so many creative idea generation techniques that get used and while some prefer to leave it to 3am inspiration or ‘creative genius’ I take a more systematic approach to coming up with heaps of unique ideas and then culling at the end.

Image credit:  James Pond

Image credit: James Pond


These are some of my go-to techniques:

Restrain, contain and release:

While your client will have imposed some constraints in their brief (and hopefully you will have questioned their rationale for these) It’s an interesting method to add, takeaway or change the constraints that are provided. 

For example, 

  • Restrain: what if we said that the idea could only be executed without type? What if you had to produce an idea that is only accessible in 2G? where would that leave you? 
  • Contain: What if the idea was only going to be produced as a stage play? What if you had to execute the an idea for $100? How would you create the concept or alter your product in these conditions?
  • Release: What you would do with unlimited budget? What could you achieve if you had all of the politicians as supporters? Does the release create a new situation for idea generation?


Similar to the above method we transform and provoke the situation in different ways:

  • Escape — from what we take for granted. Drop something that you take for granted — E.g. There are no cars. We don’t have the internet.
  • Reverse — the usual direction of operation. Take a normal direction of operation and reverse it. E.g. We pay to go to work. 
  • Exaggerate — the normal range / scale. E.g. The business has 1 million customers (instead of 200). The ad will only be seen for one day. 
  • Distort — the normal arrangements. Make a change to the normal. E.g. Customers advertise what they want instead of businesses. The product is the last one you will ever make.
  • Wishful thinking — wouldn’t it be nice if … E.g. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were the only producer in the space. Wouldn’t it be nice if our customers all liked the same colour. 
Image credit: Jason Briscoe

Image credit: Jason Briscoe


100 boxes

Draw about 20 boxes on a piece of paper and print it a bunch of times. The idea here is to give yourself a time limit — I usually take 3 mins at a time and just start drawing. 

If the idea is to sell chocolate your first box might have a picture of chocolate, your second box a mouth, your third has teeth, your fourth a smile, your fifth a smiling crocodile, your sixth a lion. 

The concept is to draw quickly and only enough so that you remember what it is — make the drawings crap, don’t put any pressure on yourself, just let the ideas in the boxes of things, situations, etc flow from one to another. 

Once you’ve done the time pick out a box and create a scenario or a situation around it e.g a lion represents bravery — is this a feeling you can/or should portray? Is the idea in a zoo? Do you have cartoon characters in the concept?

I let my imagination run wild here, it’s always a lot of fun. 

What would (x) do?

You probably have a target market, maybe even audience personas and you’re looking for solutions that suit these people. This is from your point of view — let’s try and imagine you are someone else creating a solution for the audience. 

Choose someone that everyone knows a little about and ask e.g. What would Obama’s solution look like? What would Kanye’s solution look like? This will put you in the mind frame of someone completely different. Does it make you think differently? Does it make you see something, an opportunity or a pathway that wasn’t as clear through your eyes? 

Next steps are to vet all of the ideas you came up with. 

This, for me, is the hardest part! 
Go with the data? Go with your gut? Go with what’ll sell? 
Go with what’s safe? Go with the risky?

let me know if you have any failsafe way’s of doing this? 

I hope your idea is the zip in a world of zig and zig,

The plastic plague — and those creating change
image credit:  Amber Wolfe

image credit: Amber Wolfe


If you’re reading this you’re probably a little like me, you care about the ocean, you don’t think climate change is fake news and you own a keep cup.

“In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain 1 tonne (1.1 tons) of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight).”

This was my motivation for signing up for ‘Plastic Free July’ at a moments notice. I care about the environment, this will be simple. Turns out it isn’t that straightforward. I’ll highlight some of the challenges later.

Luckily for us there are some incredible innovations that aren’t just cleaning up, but are striving for consumer change.

Sea Bin Project

The Sea Bin is a floating bin run designed to install in still water, like marinas, that can capture up to 1.5kg of plastic per day. Incredibly the bins are also designed to capture surface oils.

The Aussie invention is set to be released for sale in Summer this year, you can sign up to their mailing list here to be notified.


The Ocean Cleanup

Cleverly, the Ocean cleanup system uses the existing ocean currents in some of the most polluted sections of the Pacific to it’s advantage to funnel plastics towards a collection device where they are stored for recycling.

This project is also energy neutral and autonomous making it a no brainer.


While these kick arse projects are doing wonders to clean our oceans, real change will be the result of combining education and consumer demand.

Some challenges I’ve had so far in ‘Plastic Free July and the solutions I’ve found (apart from the obvious coffee cup solutions and hessian grocery bags, reusable water bottles) are:

  1. Fruit and vegetable plastic bags at supermarkets — instead choose these super lightweight, heavy duty recycled plastic reusable bags.
  2. Meat from the deli — Woolworths won’t tare containers to zero weight, it’s not possible on their machines, (I haven’t checked Coles) but the local butcher can.
  3. Instead of shampoo in bottles try out these shampoo bars — they worked really well, although they did leave a bit of a waxy residue.
  4. Glad wrap — these beeswax wraps are fantastic for tins and bottles.

I’m sure there will be more — I’ll save those for the end of the month.

Initially, I was worried about being an inconvenience when I was shopping, but it’s time we realise that intentionally inconveniencing corporations who are part of the problem and not the solution is the way that change is made.