Using the Provocation Technique for Creative Solutions.
Provocation is an important lateral thinking technique. It
works by moving your thinking out of the established patterns that you use
to solve problems and helps to generate original starting points for
To use provocation, make a deliberately provocative or
stupid comment relating to the problem you are thinking about. Then
suspend judgment, and use the statement as the starting point for provoke
and generating ideas. Often this approach will help you to generate
completely new concepts.
We apply provocation by
making deliberately stupid
, in which something we take for granted about the situation is not true.
Statements need to be stupid to shock our minds out of existing ways of
thinking. Once we have made a provocative statement, we then suspend
judgment and use that statement to generate ideas. Provocations give us
original starting points for creative thinking.
ACTIVITY No. 1
An architect looking for an idea for a new roof could make a
statement that 'Houses should never have tile roofs'. Normally this
would not be a sensible statement! However this leads one to think
of houses with opening roofs, or houses with glass roofs. These
would allow you to lie in bed and look up at the stars.
A designer of websites looking for an alternative approach for
developing a website makes the statement that ‘Web authoring
software should never be used to develop websites’. Write down
the ideas that this provocative statement might lead to?
Once you have made the Provocation, you can use it in a
number of different ways, by examining:
consequences of the statement
benefits would be
special circumstances would make it a sensible solution
principles needed to support it and make it work
would work moment-to-moment
would happen if a sequence of events was changed
You can use this list as a checklist.
As with other lateral thinking techniques, Provocation does not always
produce good or relevant ideas. Often, though, it does. Ideas generated
using Provocation are likely to be fresh and original.
The owner of a video-hire shop is looking at new ideas for
business to compete with the Internet. She starts with the provocation
'Customers should not pay to borrow videos'. She then examines the
would get no rental revenue and therefore would need alternative sources
of cash. It would be cheaper to borrow the video from the shop than to
download the film or order it from a catalogue.
Many more people would come to borrow videos. More people would pass
through the shop. The shop would spoil the market for other video shops
in the area.
would need other revenue. Perhaps the owner could sell advertising in
the shop, or sell popcorn, sweets, bottles of wine or pizzas to people
borrowing films. This would make her shop a one-stop 'Night at home'
shop. Perhaps it would only lend videos to people who had absorbed a
30-second commercial, or completed a market research questionnaire.
After using the Provocation, the owner of the video shop
decides to run an experiment for several months. She will allow customers
to borrow the top ten videos free (but naturally will fine them for late
returns). She puts the videos at the back of the shop. In front of them
she places displays of bottles of wine, soft drinks, popcorn and sweets so
that customers have to walk past them to get to the videos. Next to the
film return counter she sells merchandise from the top ten films being
hired. If the approach is a success she will open a pizza stand inside
Use the provocation technique to develop ‘non traditional’ (e.g. no
fish, no boats) ideas for a logo for the Fishing Cairns company.
Present your results using the headings i) Consequences, ii)
Benefits, iii) Circumstances.