Imagination Cafe

A Menu to Uncommon Thinking! 

Imagine Cafe Soup Bowl
Original ideas drive business, get attention, and change the world. Learn how you can draw from a smorgasbord of idea-generating tools.

Imagination is more important than knowledge.
— Albert Einstein

• Find the Other Right Answer
• Generate More & Better Ideas
• Ask a Better Question
• Speed Thinking
• Reverse Thinking



Find the Other Right Answer

Turn ordinary ideas into extraordinary solutions. Often we settle for the expected answer or the solutions that we were taught for so many years in school—are these the only correct answers? Henry Ford said that if he had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse, not a mass-produced car. Original ideas drive business, get attention and change the world. Creative thinking is not only a spark that comes in the middle of the night, it’s a process and hard work.

There are many tools to help you think differently and develop creative ideas. First, start with finding twenty-five answers to the problem you are trying to solve. Usually, the first few answers are the easy, expected solutions. As you dig deeper, you will come up with additional ideas. This process pushes past the expected and comes up with what you usually would not search out. If one of the first ideas is the best solution, the time developing the additional ideas was not wasted; it allows you to know that the solution you have chosen is the best and not wonder if there was a better answer.

Another exercise to help you develop a more creative thought process is to take a different route home from work, school, or activity. It may feel unnatural but look around and see what you have been missing because you have taken the same route for so long. Do the same with the project you are working on. Look at it from a different viewpoint than you normally would. If you are solving a problem for a client that deals with kids, look at it from the viewpoint of an adult, alien, ant, couch, mp3 player, the sky…

How do you know an idea is original? It scares the heck out of you. It’s not comfortable because it is not the norm or safe. The next big idea is out there but it takes courage to go beyond what is expected and come up with the other right answer.

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  Light bulbs. Many little Ideas (small light bulbs) on left = Big Idea (big light bulb) on right

Generate More & Better Ideas 
  • #1 rule: There is never a bad idea!!!! Sometimes the most outrageous, stupid ideas can spur a new direction of thought or it may trigger someone to think of something in a different light.
  • Diversify: Make sure your group is diverse. Some who are familiar with the problem you are trying to solve and some who are not. Include both analytical as well as the creative–it will give you more perspective and a broader range of ideas. Just remember the #1 rule above with a diverse group! 

Read below for some great tools for better brainstorming. 

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Ask a Better Question
    • Asking the right kind of question triggers curiosity. It makes you wonder. (i.e. Leonardo da Vinci wondered how do birds fly or how fish swim underwater.)
    • Probing questions. Be a reporter, investigator.
    • Stretching questions. Pose questions in a manner that you don’t know the answer.
    • Be the Fool, a Jester.
      • absurd, irrelevant
      • notice things others don’t
      • look at life differently
      • apply the rules of one thing to another
    • Change wording
      • around
      • replace words
      • rephrase
    • Ask questions early in the process so that your subconscious can be working on it.

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    Speed Thinking 
    • Aim for “Quantity”—quality will emerge.
    • Come up with a large number of ideas quickly. Don’t think hard, just generate ideas. Don’t worry if they are good or bad ideas, just as many as you can. We are not shooting for perfection at this time. 

    How it works: 

    1. No more than 3-5 people in each group. (This works on your own as well.)
    2. Set a time limit and minimum number of ideas for the allotted time. Anywhere from 30 ideas per team in 10 minutes to 100 per team in an hour.
    3. Write each idea on a separate sticky note.
    4. Every team member selects 2-3 ideas they like.
    5. Place the sticky notes from all the groups on the wall.
    6. Look at how you can combine ideas or if other ideas come up from seeing others thoughts, add them to the wall.
    7. Debate the idea you’re looking for and pull the ones that don’t fit off the wall.
    8. Start crafting your ideas from what you have left. 

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    Reverse Thinking
    • Direct your thought process in the exact opposite direction of where conventional wisdom would take you.
      • takes you out of expected concepts you usually fall into
      • forces you to ignore all preconceptions
    • Metaphors
    • Connect two different universes through some similarity.
      • Raising a kid is like building a house. Build a good foundation when they are young, add the structure to their life through education and morals, finish the building to withstand life’s sunny days and storms.
      • Creative is like fishing—bait the hook, sit and wait, recast, then bingo, you hook a great idea.
    • Compare your questions/concepts to something else, then see what similarities you can find between the two ideas. 

    “TED Talk” on Brilliant Ideas

    Do you sometimes have your most creative ideas while folding laundry, washing dishes or doing nothing in particular? It’s because when your body goes on autopilot, your brain gets busy forming new neural connections that connect ideas and solve problems. Learn to love being bored as Manoush Zomorodi explains the connection between spacing out and creativity.

    Play lets you silence your inner editor that censors your thoughts & ideas. It frees you to see problems in a new light & create fresh ideas.