Random Input - Making Creative Leaps
Random Input is a lateral thinking tool. It is very useful
when you need fresh ideas or new perspectives during
We tend to think by recognizing patterns. We react to
these patterns based on past experience and extensions to
that experience. Sometimes, though, we get stuck inside
them - within a particular pattern there may be no good
solution to a particular sort of problem.
Random input is a technique for linking another thinking
pattern into the one we are using. Along with this new
pattern comes all the experience you have connected to it.
How to use tool:
To use Random Input, select a random noun from either a
dictionary or a pre-prepared word list. It often helps if
the noun is something that can be seen or touched (e.g.
'helicopter', 'dog') rather than a concept (e.g.
'fairness'). Use this noun as the starting point for
brainstorming your problem.
You may find that you get good insights if you select a
word from a separate field in which you have some
If you choose a good word, you will add a range of new
ideas and concepts to your brainstorming. While some will
be useless, hopefully you will gain some good new insights
into your problem. If you persist, then at least one of
these is likely to be a startling creative leap.
Imagine that you are thinking about the problem of
reducing car pollution. So far in thinking through the
problem you have considered all the conventional solutions
of catalytic conversion and clean fuels.
Selecting a random noun from the titles of the books in a
book case you might see the word 'Plants'. Brainstorming
from this you could generate a number of new ideas:
Plant trees on the side of roads to convert CO2 back into
Similarly, pass exhaust gases through a soup of algae to
convert CO2 back into oxygen. Perhaps this is how an 'air
scrubber' in a space craft works?
Put sulphur-metabolising bacteria into an exhaust gas
processor to clean up exhaust gases. Would nitrogen
compounds fertilize these bacteria?
Another meaning of 'Plant' is factory. Perhaps exhaust
gases could be collected in a container, and sent to a
special plant to be cleaned? Perhaps you could offload
these gases at the same time as you fill up with fuel?
These ideas are very raw. Some may be wrong or
impractical. One of them might be original and the basis
of some useful development.
Random input is an excellent way of getting new
perspectives on a problem. It often leads to startling
It provides an easy way of breaking out of restrictive
thinking patterns. It helps you to link in whole ranges of
new solutions that you would not otherwise associate with
The best words to use are concrete nouns, which may come
from areas in which you have some expertise. Nouns should
not, however, come from the same field as the problem you
are considering - the whole idea of Random Input is to
link in new thinking patterns, not to stay inside old