animation-unleash-creativity                             There is an old experiment in the psychology of problem-solving. Put some corn on the ground and a sheet of glass in front of the corn. Put a hungry chicken in front of the glass, so that the glass is between the chicken and the corn. The chicken will try to go straight through the glass to get to the corn. The chicken is not able to change its relationship to the corn and go around the barrier. It’s wearing a relational-blinder before its mind’s eye and only thinks of going straight.

Humans behave this way too. There is a traffic light near my home with a left-turn lane and a straight through lane. Every week night there is a long line of around twenty cars lined up in the left-turn lane waiting for the light to change and none in the straight through lane. And, every night I drive straight through, go around the block, and wheel down the road before any of those cars get past the stoplight. Like the chicken, they, also, are wearing relational-blinders and can only think of waiting in line to turn left, instead of going around the block.

The elementary statement “Taking one thing in some relation to another thing” is a form of sentence used to describe the statement of a discovery, an invention or an idea. Discovery and invention, it could be said, is nothing more than putting a couple of old things together in a new relation. Think of it as a mathematical equation with two elements of a problem on either side of the in some relation to concept. You create an elementary action statement: “Take one thing- another thing.” There are 60 basic English words that can fit where the dash is and change the relationship of elements. They are the 60 words below.




EXAMPLE: A team of designers wanted to improve the refrigerator. Some of the elements of the problem are:  refrigerator, door, freezer, electrical power source, ice tray, food trays, inside light, and retaining cold air, aesthetics, and color.


EXAMPLE: refrigerator—door.

  1. SELECT A RELATIONAL WORD AND INSERT IT BETWEEN THE TWO PROBLEM ELEMENTS. Success in problem solving comes from changing relationships between elements in a situation. Two parts of a problem concept are “forced” together with one or more relational words to produce unusual associations. The associations then are used to stimulate new ideas.

EXAMPLE: Refrigerator—without—doors.


EXAMPLE: This relationship (without doors) inspired the invention of a refrigerator without doors. A cool-air “tornado” would circulate through the interior, while vertical jets create a protective curtain, which keeps warm air out. The refrigerator is circular in design and can be positioned anywhere, including in the center of the kitchen.

  1. REPEAT STEPS 2 AND 3. Keep rippling through different sets of relationships by changing problem elements and relational words to come up with additional ideas.

EXAMPLE: In our example, the designers continued to look for additional ideas. They changed the problem elements to: refrigerator—electrical power source. Rippling through a set of relationships, they settled on refrigerator—beside electrical power source which  inspired them to design a small battery-backup power source that kicks in should there be a brief power failure.

Success in problem solving comes from changing relationships between elements in a situation. You do this by rippling through a set of relationships that are possible, and then having the wit to recognize a solution when you see one. For example, one of the paradoxes in business organizations is that you need to empower people so that they can react creatively to fast-changing conditions, yet at the same time, you need to have sufficient control over the actions so that you can achieve your organizational goals. Your problem elements might be: empowerment, employees, organization, control, goals, react creatively, and managing. By looking at the relationship: Empowerment through employees you get the insight to invest time and energy in building trust and bonds of attachment in employees. By building commitment, trust and bonding in the organization gains control, not by controlling employees, but by freeing them.


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