Note: 35 years ago, Barbara Sher and Annie Gottlieb coined a wonderful title for their best-selling book, Wishcraft: How to get what you really want. While the book's focus is self development, it was instrumental in helping me develop more effective ideation techniques.
At the end of this entry, I will show you how to get a free copy of this classic.
“I imagine what would happen if everyone turned their regrets into wishes, went around shouting them.”
― Nina LaCour
My mentor, Dick Potter, taught me his variation of Synectics as developed by George Prince and J.J. Gordon.
The process was developed from recording and analyzing the results of meetings and experimenting with obstacles to success in the meeting. (Success was defined as aligning on a creative solution that a group was committed to put into action.)
A critical element in creativity is embracing the seemingly irrelevant. Emotion is emphasized over intellect and the irrational over the rational. Through understanding the various emotional and irrational elements of a problem or idea, a group can be more successful at solving a problem.”
One of tenants of Synectics is to begin with the problem as given (PAG). What Dick added was a wish component. For example, a problem as given might be “how might we increase sales of product X,” we would begin with wishes – extreme wishes that needed no path to viability.
A wish might be…that everyone would be required by law to buy X. We would catalog all the wishes of the group over multiple rounds. Then, we began to list the barriers to making the wish come true. The next step is to ask, “What might we do to overcome these barriers.”
The whole process is designed to bypass the intellectual need for viability and to introduce indirect ideas that may spark new possibilities.
Marty Neumeier, Director of Transformation for Liquid Agency, a branding agency headquartered in San Jose, California, has written a new book, The 46 Rules of Genius: An Innovator's Guide to Creativity. Wishing is Rule #2.
"Wishing is like a warm-up sketch for problem solving. When you let your mind wander across the blank page of possibilities, all constraints and preconceptions disappear, leaving only the trace of a barely glimpsed dream, the merest hint of a sketch of an idea. To start wishing, ask yourself the kind of questions that begin: How might I...? What’s stopping us from...? In what ways could I...? What would happen if...? From there you can ask follow-up questions like: Why would we...? What has changed to allow us to...? Who would need to...? When should I...?”
So, why begin with a wish?
Like Neumeier, I believe that in the beginning of ideation, there is no reason to place limits on you wandering. Is it the notion that you’d like to see reality sooner? That you are wasting time? Are you going down the possibility of an unproductive path?
“Wishing allows you to leave the realm of limitations, if only for a few moments to imagine a future worth pursuing.”
Synectics comes from the Greek and means, "the joining together of different and apparently irrelevant elements. A wish can be the foundation of seemingly irrelevant elements.
In one of my early sessions with Dick Potter, we asked the question, “What is the smarter choice, to sell a Visa card with a free Shopping discount card or to sell a shopping discount card with a free Visa card?
My first wish was that “I wish that there didn’t have to be two cards.” That wish led to single card called Super Visa.
So a wish cannot only help solve a current problem, it can help a group reframe the problem.
To start wishing, Neumeier offers a starter list of questions:
How might I...?
What’s stopping us from...?
In what ways could I...?
What would happen if...?
From there you can ask follow-up questions like: Why would we...?
What has changed to allow us to...?
Who would need to...?
When should I...?
Link to Marty’s book, The 46 Rules of Genius: An Innovator's Guide to Creativity:
To download a free copy of Wishcraft, click the link below.