Creative Thinking Tools Design Thinking


(30mins is usually enough for each session)

Brain­storm­ing is the gen­er­al col­lec­tive term for the process­es of cre­ative think­ing for asso­ci­a­tions.

It can have its place any­where in the cre­ative process but is most effec­tive in the ini­tial phas­es.

It is a process that is effec­tive as an Indi­vid­ual or as a group

There are 4 Rules

  1. Have a well-defined and clear­ly stat­ed prob­lem
  2. Have some­one assigned to write down all ideas as they occur
  3. Have the cor­rect num­ber of peo­ple in the group
  4. Have some­one in charge to enforce the fol­low­ing guide­lines
  • Sus­pend judge­ment (“Momen­tum”)
  • Every idea is accept­ed and record­ed (“Quan­ti­ty”)
  • Encour­age peo­ple to build on oth­er ideas (“Hitch-Hik­ing”)
  • Encour­age wacky ideas (“Free wheel­ing”)

Variants of Brainstorming

Individual Association Methods

It is pos­si­ble to brain­storm on an indi­vid­ual basis, this is a method often used by design­ers whilst work­ing on sketch pads.

Variants of Brainstorming

6–3‑5 Method

This is a very quick and effec­tive method of gen­er­at­ing a large amount of ideas. Six par­tic­i­pants indi­vid­u­al­ly write down three ideas on a spe­cif­ic pro­posed prob­lem, with­in a set time (approx­i­mate­ly 5 min­utes).

These ideas are then passed around five times and each par­tic­i­pant adds anoth­er 3 ideas.

This gen­er­ates 108 ideas (6 x 3 x 6).

The one rule, how­ev­er, is that it must be remem­bered that this is an asso­ci­a­tion method
where the asso­ci­a­tion is rel­a­tive to the par­tic­u­lar list that is held at a giv­en time.

Organisation of Ideas

These meth­ods work best with a matrix chart to ensre all ideas are col­lect­ed.

Idea 1            

Idea 2            

Idea 3            

Par­tic­i­pant 1


Par­tic­i­pant 3

Par­tic­i­pant 4

Par­tic­i­pant 5

Par­tic­i­pant 6

Idea & Problem Bank

( 30mins is usu­al­ly enough for each ses­sion )

Group activ­i­ty This is a sec­ondary lev­el process.

There are 5 main steps then repeat until ideas become exhaust­ed

  1. Think of a Prob­lem
  2. Deposit prob­lems into the Bank
  3. With­draw prob­lems and cre­ate solu­tions
  4. Deposit solu­tions into the Bank
  5. Pick a new prob­lem
Brain writing Pool

( 30mins is usu­al­ly enough for each ses­sion)

Devel­oped by the Batelle Insti­tute in Frank­furt, Ger­many

  1. The Prob­lem, or Design Brief is explained to the group In silence each indi­vid­ual jots down their ideas on a sheet of paper ( in either writ­ten or sketch for­mat ).
  2. When an indi­vid­ual has cre­at­ed 4 ideas or has a men­tal block, the paper is placed in the cen­tre of the table.
  3. They then select a sheet from the cen­tre of the table and try to add more ideas to it.

Each sheet is anony­mous and the same sheet could be select­ed sev­er­al times. This can be more effec­tive than nor­mal brain­storm­ing.

The SCAMPER list

This sys­tem was elab­o­rat­ed to cre­ate a design check­list- below (John Arnold, the founder of Design divi­sion, Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty)


Who/What else instead?

Oth­er ingre­di­ent, mate­r­i­al, process­es, pow­er, place, approach, tone of voice?


Cre­ate a blend, an alloy, an assort­ment, an ensem­ble?

Com­bine units, appeals, ideas, pur­pos­es?

  • What else is like this?
  • What oth­er idea does this sug­gest?
  • Does the past offer a par­al­lel?
  • What could I copy?
  • Whom could I Emu­late?
  • New twist?
  • Change:
  • mean­ing,
  • colour,
  • motion,
  • sound,
  • odour,
  • form,
  • shape,
  • change…?
  • What to add?
  • More time?
  • Greater fre­quen­cy?
  • Stronger?
  • High­er?
  • Longer?
  • Thick­er?
  • Extra Val­ue?
  • Plus ingre­di­ent?
  • Dupli­cate?
  • Mul­ti­ply?
  • Exag­ger­ate?


  • What to sub­tract?
  • Small­er?
  • Con­densed?
  • Minia­ture?
  • Low­er?
  • Short­er?
  • lighter?
  • Omit?
  • Stream­line?
  • Split up?
  • Under­state?

Put to other uses?

New ways to use as is?

Oth­er uses if Mod­i­fied?



  • Inter­change com­po­nents?
  • Oth­er pat­tern, lay­out, sequence?
  • Trans­pose cause and effect?
  • Change pace, sched­ule?
  • Trans­pose pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive?
  • Oppo­sites?
  • Back­wards?
  • Up side down?
  • Reverse roles, change shoes, turn tables, turn the oth­er cheek?
Fish bone Diagram

The fish­bone dia­gram is a method of clar­i­fy­ing a prob­lem. The tech­nique best works with prob­lems which start with terms like What, Why and How.

Once the prob­lem is iden­ti­fied and placed at the head of the fish, the bones of the issue are defined using dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories. These are the parts of the prob­lem which will be dealt with indi­vid­u­al­ly. Cat­e­gories are decid­ed by brain­storm­ing the gen­er­al issues of the prob­lem. Typ­i­cal­ly they may include:

M’s: Man, Machine, Method, Mate­ri­als Main­te­nance and Moth­er Each (Envi­ron­ment)

P’s: Price, Pro­mo­tion, Peo­ple, Process­es, Place/Plant, Poli­cies, Pro­ce­dures and Prod­uct

S’s: Sur­round­ings, Sup­pli­ers, Sys­tems, Skills, Ser­vice

This list is indica­tive and not exhaus­tive. The cat­e­gories are used to stim­u­late brain­storm­ing around the caus­es under each. At the end of the process the prob­lem is more clear­ly defined.

Structured free association
  1. Write down a sym­bol (word, fig­ure, object, con­di­tion) which has a link to the prob­lem
  2. Note down new links asso­ci­at­ed with step no.1 with­out look­ing at the link with the ini­tial prob­lem
  3. Repeat step 2 until there are no more ideas
  4. Study the list and choose the ideas which have mer­it
  5. Use the asso­ci­a­tions from no.4. to cre­ate solu­tions to the prob­lem.
Lotus Blossom Technique

The prin­ci­pal of this tech­nique is by using the prob­lem analy­sis as the cen­tral theme, ever widen­ing cir­cles or “petals” are cre­at­ed with relat­ed ideas, which them­selves become cen­tral themes and so on.

  • Start­ing with a theme or problem,Record this state­ment or word in the cen­tre of the page
  • Find eight ideas relat­ed to this and place them con­cen­tric to it.
  • These are labelled A‑H.
  • Select each of these ideas A‑H indi­vid­u­al­ly and cre­ate oth­er con­cen­tric dia­grams for which eight fur­ther ideas are cre­at­ed, rel­a­tive only to each indi­vid­ual idea.
  • These new ideas are num­bered 1–8
  • This process con­tin­ues until exhaust­ed