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Creative tools > Purposing

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


When to use it

Use it when you are starting out, to define the problem which you are seeking to solve.

Use it when you are stuck, to think again about what you are trying to achieve.

You can also use it to help discover the purpose of the person to whom you are selling the idea.







  X        Psychological



    X      Group


How to use it

Purposing is a simple technique, but it can be very powerful in creating an effective focus for the creative work.

Ask 'What is it for?'

The basic principle of purposing is to return to asking the real purpose. So ask, 'What is it for?' Seek the reason behind what you are trying to do.

Ask the person or people for whom you are creating why they want it? Ask what they are going to do with it? Go and watch them to learn more.

Do it again

And when you think you know, ask the question again. Take another viewpoint. Ask 'Who else is interested in this? What do they want?' Look deeper. Just ask the same question again and again.

Think about different technical or other aspects about the problem. Ask 'Am I trying to achieve this, or trying to do that?' Look at it in as many different ways as possible.


I am working in helping an athlete work towards the Olympics. By asking about purpose, I come up with the following alternatives:

  • To qualify for the Olympics.
  • To win a gold medal.
  • To run faster.
  • To get stronger.
  • To improve technique.
  • To impress the selection committee.
  • To earn more money.

How it works

It is surprising how often, in the rush to find a solution, that people fail to pay sufficient attention to understanding the real problem. This principle is also seen in examination halls, where generations of students have failed exams not through a lack of knowledge, but a failure to read the question.

Repeating a question also has the effect of, each time the question is asked,

See also



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