The traditional view of creativity is that it is unstructured and doesn’t follow rules or patterns. Would-be innovators are told to “think outside the box,” “start with a problem and then brainstorm ideas for a solution,” “go wild making analogies to things that have nothing to do with your product or service.”
We advocate a radically different approach: thinking inside the proverbial box, not outside of it. People are at their most creative when they focus on the internal aspects of a situation or problem””and when they constrain their options rather than broaden them. By defining and then closing the boundaries of a particular creative challenge, most of us can be more consistently creative””and certainly more productive than we are when playing word-association games in front of flip charts or talking about grand abstractions at a company retreat.
Our method works by taking a product, concept, situation, service or process and breaking it into components or attributes. Using one of five techniques, innovators can manipulate the components to create new-to-the-world ideas that can then be put to valuable use.