Uncage your ideas with Brutethink, a Highly Effective Creativity Technique

Uncage Your Ideas with BrutethinkWhy should you read this?

Brutethink can help you to overcome a blank mind and unleash a river of ideas for any challenge or question you may have.

In a previous post, we introduced classical brainstorming as a technique to come up with new ideas. We posed a specific question, problem, or challenge and tried to list as many ideas as possible on how to solve this challenge. Usually this technique leads to more ideas than we can possibly implement.

Sometimes, however, our mind goes blank when faced with a question. At other times, even after having brainstormed on a challenge for quite some time, we are still not happy with our ideas. Somehow, we need some fresh sparks.

Brutethink in a Nutshell

In this post, I would like to introduce you to a simple yet highly effective creativity technique to overcome a blank mind and an empty sheet of paper. “They” call it Brutethink. In a nutshell, this is how Brutethink works:

As in brainstorming, start with a specific problem, question, or challenge.

  1. Choose a random word or any other random stimulus (e.g., a photo) and think about its attributes. Write these attributes on a sheet of paper.
  2. Concentrate on the random word and your challenge. Your mind will automatically create connections between the word and your challenge.
  3. List all ideas that come to mind.

Support step 2 by going through the attributes one by one and asking yourself how they can help you to solve your problem.

A friend recently asked me, “How can I get more customers for my café restaurant?” This makes for a perfect example for Brutethink.

  • The challenge: How can I get more customers for my cafe?
  • We found “choirboy” as a random word.

So we have a choirboy and “How do I get more customers?”

Here is the list of attributes plus some of the ideas we came up with for our choirboy when focusing on his attributes and the challenge:

  1. Choirboy
    • More visibility
    • Ad in the local Expat forum
    • Engage with fans on my Facebook page
    • Distribute flyers with vouchers in town
    • Loyalty cards
    • Ten stamps, get one cappuccino free
  2. Sings in a choir among peers
    • Cannot sing alone, needs other choir boys
    • Cooperate with other businesses
    • Flyer or name card exchange
    • Joint discount program
    • Link exchange with hotels
  3. Beautiful voice
    • Music events, jam sessions
    • Karaoke
  4. Cute boy
    • Post beautiful pictures
    • Present the food in more appealing ways
    • Cappuccino art
    • Create a menu with photos of dishes
  5. Young
  6. Nicely dressed
  7. Has a choir master, a leader
  8. Choir sings every Sunday at church
    • Advertise outside the church
    • Daily special
    • Weekly movie night
  9. Reaches the hearts of many elderly people
  10. Organ to amplify the sound

We diverted a bit from the order given above; that is, we thought about an attribute and right away asked ourselves, “How can this help us to get more customers?”

Depending on your mood and personal preference, you could first list all attributes and then start brainstorming or dive right into brainstorming after each attribute.

Questions to help you list attributes for a random word or other random stimulus

  • What are its characteristics?
  • What does it do?
  • What can we do with it?
  • Where is it used?

Where can you find a random word or other stimulus?

  • Take a dictionary and open it at an arbitrary page. Point your finger anywhere on the page (without looking).
  • Look around you. Pick whatever first catches your eye.
  • Draw a random photo out of a shoebox filled with photos.
  • Use a random word generator, such as http://creativitygames.net/random-word-generator/randomwords/3.

Random words that can be visualized work better than words describing abstract concepts.
In his book Thinkertoys, Michael Michalko offers a list of words, which he describes as “simple, visual, and connection-rich.”

Who invented Brutehink?

I learned about Brutethink in Michael Michalko’s excellent book Thinkertoys. According to his biography, Michael, as a U.S. Army officer, headed a team of NATO personnel and academics that was responsible for researching, collecting, and categorizing all known creativity techniques. Thinkertoys is a book full of creativity techniques, tricks, and small, entertaining puzzles.

Last but not least: Read “How Do You Decide which Ideas to Implement?” for strategies to evaluate and rank your ideas.

To your success,

Helmut Sachs

2 thoughts on “Uncage your ideas with Brutethink, a Highly Effective Creativity Technique

  1. Hey Helmut! That was a very creative and thought-provoking exercise. Thanks for introducing me to this method! It’s perfect for me, ’cause my mind kinda works that way already … randomly organized. I’m a total oxymoron!

  2. Thanks a lot for stopping by Wendy. You could also use random stimulation when trying to come up with new ideas for blog posts. “Randomly organized” reminds me of “Predictably Irrational,” a wonderful book by Dan Ariely. Woops, we have another idea for a future blog post.

Leave a Reply