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11.2.3. Creative Tension: Pre-inventive Forms


How To Invent (Almost) Anything > 11. Stimulating Ideas > 11.2. Creating Tension > 11.2.3. Creative Tension: Pre-inventive Forms

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If you give one person a few toys, another a few random scraps of assorted materials and a third person nothing, and then ask them to invent a new toy, experiments have shown that the following events are likely to occur. The first person is likely to come up with variations on the toys they were given. The third person will come up with some interesting ideas. But the greatest number and most creative ideas are most likely to come from the second person.

What happens here is that the first person gets anchored by the conventional forms of the toys they were given, whilst the third person is anchored by their own mental models of toys. The random shapes, however, act as external stimuli to the second person, pulling them away from the anchors that entrap the other two people.

So to use pre-inventive forms, simply find some random bits of metal, paper, and so on, which are deliberately taken from areas well away from the problem domain. Then play with them, wondering how you could use them to solve your problem, for example as in Fig. 11.1.

Fig. 11.1 Using pre-emptive forms

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