September 2017

Don’t Blame The Boomerang When It Doesn’t Return

2017-09-29T14:52:34-04:00 Categories: create, grow, SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , |

When I was six or seven years old, my grandfather took a trip to Australia and brought me back a boomerang. While I thought it was the coolest thing, no matter how much I practiced throwing it, it would never come back.

A non-returning boomerang was exasperating since that is the whole purpose of a boomerang. Right?

However, if I were to fill a field with boomerang beginners who lacked instruction, there is an excellent chance we’d come to the collective conclusion that boomerangs don’t work… Could we all be bad at the process? It must be a gimmick, like X-Ray Vision Glasses.

Of course, we could immediately disapprove our theory with a demonstration by a skilled boomerang thrower. And, once shown the technique, we could all be successful.

This boomerang story comes to mind each time someone complains that brainstorming doesn’t work. And each time someone quotes the research* indicating brainstorming doesn’t work.

The research is easy to believe. We all have been in mind-numbing “brainstorming” sessions that waste time and lack innovative output.

But, this too is an example of blaming the device when we’re bad at the process.

I agree, to brainstorm in a group, using only the basic 4-rules created by Alex Osborn in 1939, is not the most efficient way to generate ideas. And, if this is the process you or your team is using – well, it is no wonder you think it sucks.

If you’re frustrated with the lack of great ideas at your company, learn how to lead structured idea generation sessions. Put in place a contemporary innovation process, or hire an expert to help.

Even as a little kid, I knew it wasn’t the boomerang, but my technique.

Don’t let inadequate brainstorming methods be your excuse for not trying effective methods. Don’t let the frustration of poor form cheat you, your team, or your company from creating remarkable ideas.

August 2017

Idea Generation: Great Ideas Are Looking Up

2017-08-28T09:47:57-04:00 Categories: SandBlog, think|Tags: , , , , |

Ever wonder why great ideas seem to pop into your head at the strangest (and sometimes inopportune) times? Like when you’re… falling asleep, in the shower, or exercising? It’s not a coincidence. These are times when your body is switched to autopilot, and your conscious mind doesn’t need to labor to perform these routine tasks. So the mind creatively wanders and processes other stuff. Processes thoughts and problems that have been churning in the ‘back of your mind.’

But, what if you could harness this as a skill and use it at will?

It’s probably not realistic to think you’ll be able to tell your boss…

“I just finished lunch and will have some BIG ideas for you later this afternoon! I’ve got to try to fall asleep first!”

So if a midday nap or at-work shower isn’t practical, what else could you do to allow your mind to creatively wonder? Idea Sandbox recommends:

Cloud Gazing


Yep, that’s right. The same techniques you used when you were a kid (i.e. looking up at clouds, inspired by their formations, and seeing shapes… ducks, bunnies, and bears) can be used to arouse great ideas.

So how does it work?

The secret to this technique is to allow your mind to drift – like the clouds – versus concentrating. Take a 15 to 30-minute recess from your project. Get outside, or at least to a big window – and gaze. Toss your (problem, opportunity, challenge) out to the clouds, relax, let your mind wander, and see what forms.

I can’t guarantee every time that the new bottle design you need will reveal itself in cloud shapes. Or that forming clouds will definitely inspire the new customer communication strategy you’re seeking. However, I can assure that you’ll be a bit more relaxed, energized, and focused when you return to your desk.

I hope you give Cloud Gazing a try and see if it works for you. Good luck! And remember… only use your new Cloud Gazing powers to do good!

August 2013

Why (And How) to Develop Great Ideas

2013-08-27T01:26:45-04:00 Categories: SandBlog, solve, think|Tags: , |

To help make an idea great, it has got to have a “why” attached to it (the justification) and a “how” to make it possible (the logistics).

Sometimes, when brainstorming, people become attached to certain ideas. Or maybe there is an idea they’ve brought in with them to the meeting. Or you’ll come across that “great idea” put upon the team by a company executive … who heard it from his nephew.

Though any of these may seem brilliant, until they are justified as both (a) supporting business strategy and (b) logistically practical, they can’t be considered viable.

To assist with this step during brainstorming sessions, I created a paper guide which allows participants to document to make sure they think through, and solve, both “why” and “how.”

You’ll also notice, at the bottom of the guide, I provide additional filters. In the case of the attached example we measure for ease, investment, and reach. (Insert your appropriate filtering questions there).

Why+How=Great Idea Guide [Word document, 46 KB].

It is a simple tool, but serves its purpose to ensure ideas are not just clever, but appropriate and feasible.

I invite you to give it a try. Let me know how it works for you.

July 2006

Idea Generation: Be An Explorist, Let Your Get-Away Inspire You

2017-08-20T18:27:57-04:00 Categories: Sand for Your Inbox|Tags: , , , , |

Traveling offers a perfect opportunity for creative inspiration. Experiencing out-of-the-ordinary sites, sounds, tastes, people, and culture helps stimulate out of the ordinary thinking and ideas.

Get the Inside Scoop

Before you leave for your destination, consult insider/underground guides for the places you are visiting. These guides often provide more insight than tourist guidebooks and share the gritty aspects of local life.

Connect with Locals

Talk to everyone you meet. Talk with shopkeepers, concierge, taxi drivers, roadside vendors, and others. Listen a lot. These locals will proudly direct you to places off the beaten path.

Start with the “Cheesy” Tour

Take the tours that locals refuse to attend. The double-decker bus, the land/water tour, or the sightseeing van. (You know which these are, similar to those you refuse to do in your town). These tours cover vast areas of the city, highlight key landmarks, and provide a broad overview of an area. They provide an excellent starting point and allow you to become more familiar with the layout of a city. Use these tours to determine which parts of the city you will later explore.

Hero Hometowns

Walk in the footsteps of one of your heroes. Visit their birthplace, see where they grew up, went to school, and visit the places that inspired them. Don’t have a particular hero? Adopt one and explore the path a great inventor, famous artist, or great leader – you’ll be surprised how what you learn will inspire your own life.

Next adventure you take, augment your travel plans so you may go beyond being a tourist… to being an explorist.