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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 creative thinking.

 

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 (provocative)statements , 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

My example: 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.

Your example: 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:

  • The consequences of the statement
  • What the benefits would be
  • What special circumstances would make it a sensible solution
  • The principles needed to support it and make it work
  • How it would work moment-to-moment
  • What would happen if a sequence of events was changed
  • Etc.

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.



Example:

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 provocation:

  • Consequences: The shop 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.
  • Benefits: 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.
  • Circumstances: The shop 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 the shop.

 


ACTIVITY No.2
Use the provocation technique to develop ‘non traditional’ (e.g. no fish, no boats) ideas for a logo for the Fishing Cairns company.
Website at: http://www.fishingcairns.com.au/
Present your results using the headings i) Consequences, ii) Benefits, iii) Circumstances.