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Creative tools > Chunking

When to use it | How to use it | Example | How it works | See also


When to use it

Use it to look at a problem in different lights to help identify the best way of defining the problem.

Use it to explore different possible solutions.



  X        Long



X          Psychological



  X        Group


How to use it

A 'chunk' is a piece of information that you view as a single 'thing'. Chunks can come in different sizes. 'The world' is a big chunk. 'The Universe' is even bigger. 'An atom' is very small. These are physical. You can also have conceptual chunks. 'Universal love' is big. 'Family ties' are smaller. 'Narcissism' is smaller still.

Chunk up

Chunking up is about taking a broader view. Helicopter up to 30,000 feet. Survey the landscape to see the whole system.

Ask 'Why' things happen to find higher-level purpose. Ask 'what is this an instance of' to find a more general classification.

Use inductive reasoning to go from specific detail to general theories and explanations.

Chunk down

Chunking down is about going into detail to find smaller and more specific elements of the system.

Ask 'How' things happen to find lower-level detail. Ask 'What, specifically' to probe for more information. Ask 'Give me an example' to get specific instances of a class.

Use deductive reasoning to go from general theories and ideas to specific cases and instances.

Chunk up and down

Chunking up and down go well together as a way of looking differently at the same situation.

Chunk up from the existing situation to find a general or broader view. Then chunk down somewhere else.

This works for scientists too. They observe empirical data. Then chunk up using inductive reasoning to creative an explanatory theory. Then chunk down though deduction to a hypothesis about what should work in another situation.


Redefining the problem

I am thinking about the problem of how heavy my luggage is.

Chunking up, I redefine the problem as transportation.

Chunking down, I redefine the problem as one of luggage size and contents.

Creative usage

I want to redesign a table.

I chunk up by looking at it as a supporting device.

I chunk down into chair (table attached to chair arm?), stool (fold out top to convert stool to table?) and floor (table rises out of floor?).

How it works

Chunking down uses the principle of decomposition, breaking things down into smaller pieces. Chunking up simply reverses this to get a higher-level viewpoint.

It also works by moving people from their preferred chunk level to a platform where they normally do not go (note, for example, how some people dive instinctively into the detail).

See also



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