# Brainstorming

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• #40441

CM
Participant

Hello All:I am looking for a problem for Brainstorming several creative solutions. I need to use this as a training tool to personnel of different backgrounds. A standard example like “Ways to combat rising fuel costs” would be ideal. I would appreciate your thoughts and inputs for suggesting problems of this nature. Thanks,
CM

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#125545

John H.
Participant

CM

Creative Problem Solving, Games of Chance and Mathematical Modeling
There is a popular misconception that all scientific discoveries require complex equations and concepts that are beyond the comprehension of most people and should be left to the experts or specialists. As an example, if you asked most people ” What number sum comes up most often during consecutive throws of a pair of dice?” , you usually get answers like, “Thats probability and I did not take it in high school.” or “I vaguely remember it, I think you multiply or add the probability to get the answer.” When told that the answer is one plus the largest number on each die and for six number dice it is seven for twelve is thirteen etc.. , and the answer can be obtained without textbook theory using simple arithmetic and verified by experiment, you get a puzzled reaction like “interesting” or “How is that possible?”. The technique used in solving the above problem involves four basic steps which are as follows:
Step I Find the simplest model* or example for the problem, look for relational patterns and solve the problem for the simplest case using the discovered relationships or rules. *Example : Start with two number(1,2) dice.
Step II Make the problem and model slightly more complicated* and use the relationships or rules discovered from step I to solve the problem. Modify or simply the rules as necessary. *Example: Solve the problem for three(1,2,3) and four(1,2, 3, 4) dice.
Step III Solve the problem with a dice pair with a arbitrary number on each die say six or 12 and proceed to check the generalized rule with the next highest number on each die say seven or thirteen.

Step IV Verify your mathematical model with actual or simulated experiments .
I hope this helps
John H.

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#125984

Michael Schlueter
Participant

Hello CM,
Sorry: I think you follow a wrong assumption. Please do not take it personally. It looks like “solving problems” and “creativity” became a synonym for each other.
I once heard an argument I found convincing: Can you solve a mathematical equation, like x^2 – 3x +5 = 0, by storming your brain? By voting? By guessing? And what’s about a similar case x^3 – 3x +5 = pi ?
Probably not, if you want to achieve more than just a hit-by-chance.
What then is the alternative?
The alternative is: analysis. Analytical thinking. And here may be a reason why people tend to mingle analytical thinking and creativity. We all know about mental roadblocks. At one point in time I simply can’t think out-of-my-box. What I need at that point are inertia-breaking tools, which break my mental inertia and point me into THE direction (many times there are more than 1 strong directions).
Here are examples for you (some people will recognize them as classics), which are tough in themselves and are within a narrow scope. BTW: these were used to teach analytical thinking to children (they were tough for me in the first go).
1. A super-strong acid
Engineers investigate acids by pouring the acid into a bowl and immersing metal cubes for a while. Acids are classified by the amount of corrosion they produce on the cubes surface.
A new acid is so strong that no known bowl can withstand the acid (so it leaks away).
How to immerse the samples when the acid can’t be stored? How to perform this measurement, when you can’t afford damage caused by the leaking acid?

2. Resistant paint
Kindergartens use colorful wooden chairs and tables. While the colors are an enjoyable experience for the kids it is less enjoyable for the managers: the paint wears off quickly during everyday use, calling for frequent re-paint.
How to make the paint last forever? How to do this without increasing cost?

To make it simple there is just one easy to implement strong solution for each example. In reality you will have more options for strong solutions, depending on your situation. To my experience a brainstormed variety of so-called solutions to a tough problem tend to miss the point: many times theses ‘solutions’ accept a compromise, where you’d like to have a breakthrough.
Hope this helps. Please let me know, how your stroy continues. +++ Michael Schlueter

You can cont(r)act me by posting a reply to this post.

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#125992

pnmoore
Participant

I will first of all say that you are correct.  Brainstorming would not be an appropriate way to find the answer to any form of algabraic type problem, and in those instances where the problem can be solidly distilled to this level creativity is not the best tool to use.  BUT every situation can’t be broken to this level.
I would present the Service industries as an example of one where you would encounter issues that can be measured (i.e. customer satisfaction) but nto necessarily put into pure mathematical terms to be solved.
The most important lesson I have learned, and most people new to quality need to learn, is to use the right tool for the right problem.  You don’t pick up a screw driver and walk around looking for screws that are loose.  You see a loose screw and then choose the right tool to tighten it.  Just because you have never needed to tighten a screw shouldn’t mean you discount the usefulness of that tool.
From a comical view (meaning I am not trying to be a pain, just think it is funny), are the two questions you pose valid?  If the acid can disolve “any known bowl” then obviously no known container can hold it.  Therefore you have no way to transport this acid to test it to begin with!  It would simply eat through anything you put it in, and then eat its way into the Earth, not to be seen again :o)

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#125999

Michael Schlueter
Participant

Hello pnmoore,
You are right about the acid transport. Yes, it’s funny: this detail hasn’t been given in this task (or at least I don’t recall it). However, its main purpose is to think about a very difficult situation: to store, what can’t be stored; to measure, what can’t be measured.
Many real-life tough problems provide a contradiction. E.g. loans should be high (for the worker) AND low (for the balance sheet). Or: notebooks should be used inside a dark room (to read the display) AND they should be read outside (my desire).
How to deal with contradictions? This is the key-problem addressed and presented in the acid example.
Insufficient solutions do not resolve the underlying conflict. Instead they compromise for one of the two choices. E.g. the manager keeps loans low (to have a marginal profit this year), accepting the price, e.g. loss of employee motivation or a strike. Or companies sell notebooks with very bright displays, so you can use them in the bright sun light … for 20 minutes or so. Or: people simply give up, as it *appears* to be without a solution.
In contrast strong solutions do have a very different property: they provide both, they resolve the conflict, they bring back harmony so to say.
How? By a dedicated change, which resolves the conflict.
I won’t go into detail here: there are real-life conflict resolutions for the loan-example. For the notebooks there are displays under development, which I can not read in the dark, but which will be very readable outside.
The problems from my 2 posts (acid, wood, loan, display) have common properties:

it’s hard to solve them by creativity alone
our mind tends to mislead itself, because it is not clear without analysis, what is relevant or not-relevant
they become easy to solve once we can direct our creativity.

Thanks for this opportunity. +++ Michael Schlueter

You can cont(r)act me by posting a reply to this post.

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#126000

AB
Participant

CM
I came across a very interesting website where new approaches to solving old problems are routinely discussed. I encourage you to take a look at some of their content.  The essence of the website is to question everything by asking the question Why Not? You will find plenty of good brainstorming questions there.
http://www.whynot.net/
Hope you find it useful.
AB

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#126001

Participant

Edward de Bono
http://www.edwdebono.com/

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#126010

CM
Participant

Hello All:
I appreciate your inputs in helping me find a suitable brainstorming example. Will let you know my thoughts after going through those websites.
rgds,
CM

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#126012

D or F
Participant

AB,
That’s one of the dumbest sites I have ever seen.
Did you really find it interesting?
I really think it deserves a F, but I’ll give it a D-.

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#126013

AB
Participant

Dude, if you have performed a better feat yourself OR if you can produce 25 brainstorming ideas without spending a horrendous amount of time, please share with me. The website may not meet my or your criteria, but at least the owner has achieved more than I have in so far as producing a list of potential brainstorming problems is concerned. So unless I hear of another website that addresses this need, I will keep recommending it to everyone. (And I will say that I agree with you that it is rated D-F, but A-C are yet not created to make you feel good)

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