Forced Association

Forced Association is a powerful creative technique in which a series of random words are forced into association with the topic under investigation. These artifically paired words are then considered for creative possibilities.

A child's brain is well known for its creativity. But as we age we often lose and/or suppress these tendencies. We rely instead on rules, experience, beliefs and scientific knowledge. These are effective at developing and improving existing entities, but they are less useful at innovation. Forced Association overrides the logical thought processes and stipulates latent creativity. For example, Pilkington invented the process of distortion-free float glass by thinking about how a bar of Ivory soap floats on water. An analogy might be being confined in a trapped lift with a complete stranger for a couple of hours. Various synergies and conversational possibilities are almost certain to evolve.

To illustrate this, the problem might be how to improve the fortunes of a failing restaurant. Five random words might be Toilet, Glue, Tulip, Cloud and Umbrella. Restaurant - Toilet could lead to thinking about: advertising in local toilets (e.g. people in bars often go to the toilet as they are leaving, with thoughts of visiting a restaurant); making the restaurant's toilets a selling point. Restaurant - Glue could lead to: a special discount menu for anyone visiting more than once a week; a promotion with special lapel stickers for kids. Normally you would chose at least ten random words and then look for ten ideas from each of the ten pairings. The chances are that you will generate at least five usable ideas.

Forced Association is attributed to the US marketeer and creative thinker Alex Osborn, the developer of Brainstorming.

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