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How to use an idea box to solve problems

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

The Idea Box is based on a theory of Dr Fritz Zwicky who was a Swiss astronomer. What Dr Zwicky found was that when you are faced with a problem and are looking for a solution, you should look at the parameters of the challenge first.

These could be time, money, design features, need or function, for example. These are the variables that could feasibly be changed. So let's try out this creative problem solving strategy and see how it works in practice.

Let's say our challenge is to design a hygienic household bin. Our first step is to identify the parameters of the challenge. So in this case, the parameters could be: the material that the bin is made from, the method of opening the bin and the liner inside the bin. The next step in this particular challenge is to begin to randomly choose one variation and combine this with two others to create new possibilities of a hygienic design.

From this idea box we could generate ideas such as a plastic pull out bin with a charcoal filter and a bamboo fibre bin with an infra-red motion sensor with an anti-bacterial liner. There are hundreds of possibilities and even if just 10% of the ideas are viable, then you have generated multiple ideas from this simple strategy.

This kind of creative problem solving technique is also described as 'totality research' as it focuses on looking at all types of solutions.

Dr Zwicky described this approach as a way to establish a complete field of coverage. Meaning that the quest for a viable solution can only be achieved if all possible avenues have been explored.

The Idea Box can be used for so many problems that require solutions from product design or re-design to services or even personal issues.

Try the idea box for yourself using the template linked here- you can edit this online and use it as you wish.

If you are interested in diving deeper into thinking skills in order to prepare for an interview or perhaps improve your performance in your current job, here is the link to my full Creative Thinking Masterclass

If you simply want to practise your problem solving skills using the Idea Box, try these challenges using the free editable template linked here.​

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