Brainstorming ruts are the worst. They are like writers block. You know you are a creative person.... an ideas person. There are millions of possibilities floating around in your mind on a regular basis. So, how is it possible that in a room full of like-minded individuals, hell-bent on coming up with an awesome solution to a given problem sometimes when you open the floor for ideas......you get silence.
Even in the best human-centered design situations - where you have immersed yourself in the culture and lifestyle of users, interviewed experts, and researched analogous spaces - groups can come to a standstill when it comes to ideation.
At the most recent the WEdesignthink meeting sponsored by University Of Chicago's CIE (Chicago Innovation Exchange), I learned a great framework to utilize in this exact situation.
I am calling it the Rich/Poor/Young Framework, and you can use it too! The framework leads groups through different constraints when thinking through solutions for a problem.
Rich: How might we solve this problem if we had $100 million? Thinking through the problem with this mindset first allows imaginations to go wild. Group members are given permission to introduce solutions that they may have set aside otherwise, seeing them as exorbitant solutions due to budget.
Poor: How might we solve this problem is we had no money? Once you think through all the things money can buy, it's time to add lack of budget as a restraint. With the ideas flowing, group members can add a layer of creativity in how they might accomplish the same objective, but without funds.
Young: How might we solve this problem if we were five years old? My personal favorite step in the framework brings an element of whimsy into the mix. How would a kid solve this problem? Answers are typically fun and make the group laugh and smile. And rooted in that is a hint of something that is attractive to problem solving, that can only be reached through a different perspective.
Mentally immersing yourself in different extreme user scenarios can make for fruitful new ideas. I'm keeping this one in the mental file for the next time I'm in a brainstorming rut!