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Creative Thinking Exercises: 001 Combining Ideas

Combining Ideas: How to combine ideas for creative thinking breakthroughs

This creative thinking exercise will amaze you!

Combining ideas is one of the fundamental exercises in creative thinking. When you combine ideas you are following in the footsteps of mankind's creative breakthroughs. Ever since cavemen twigged that a stick could be a weapon and a tool, something to build shelter with and somewhere to hang your saber tooth fur coat off the ground... we've been combining ideas.

You and I combine ideas all day long without even realising it. We are often doubling or tripling the value of an action... letting it serve different purposes. But with deliberate creative thinking we want to make use of this skill. We want to make use of our lateral thinking abilities. We want to combine ideas in extraordinary ways so we can come up with stonkingly brilliant and original new ideas.

Creative Thinking Exercise 001: Combine Ideas

Here you can get some practice at combining ideas. Choose at random two words from the lists below. When you've selected two words, think about the words. Get clear in your mind what each represents. In a notebook, do a rough mind map of each word and fugure out what each means and represents to you.

For example, say I have chosen the word stone (as in a pebble) and the word camera.

First, I look at stone. And I figure its: hard, mineral, roundish, smooth, textured, solid, cold, that it can be used as a weapon, or decoration, or to build with, or to play with, as a weight.

Next, I look at camera. A camera can be a pin-hole camera, film camera, digital camera, video camera. It captures photos, pictures, images, or movies. It has a shutter to let light in. It has buttons to adjust settings or initiate taking a picture or filming. There's usually a lens that can be adjusted to focus near or far, and a lens cap. The camera shutter opens briefly to allow light in to register on a sensitive film. I don't know how it works in a digital camera so I will take a trip to Wikipedia to find out. You could further think about all the ways that cameras are used: to capture and record events, to entertain, for art, to create dramatic images to sell things, for security and so on.

Once you have gotten clear on what each word means to you... then you can start combining ideas. Think about how the one thing relates or could relate to the other.

  • Could you make a camera that looks like a stone? For a novelty item or for spy purposes.
  • Could you make a stone look like a camera? Carving a stone sculpture of a camera.
  • Could you defend yourself by throwing a camera or use it in some kind of catapult?
  • Could you hunt and kill an animal with a camera?
  • Could you design some kind of stone-like camera that you could throw near wildlife in order to film it? I think I've seen remote control movie cameras camoflaged as stones or rocks that can drive slowly over rough terrain to get close to animals.
  • Stones are used to build walls. Could you build a wall of cameras, or a whole house of cameras where every 'brick' had the capacity to film or record information or events in the house? Hmm sounds a bit like the reality TV BIg Brother house!
  • Or could you build houses out of old cameras or disposable cameras that aren't wanted anymore?
  • Could cameras incorporate more natural mineral elements than manufactured chemical-based parts?
  • Could stones be painted with some kind of film to measure and show environmental changes?
  • Cameras shutters let in a certain amount of light via the focal lens to leave an impression on the film. Is there some kind of application where sunlight could be focused through a lens onto stones? The stones would absorb the heat energy and perhaps that could be released somehow at a later time when it is dark.
  • Stones can be heated in fires, is there anyway of stone-cladding cameras so that could be used in fires. A remote controlled camera that can explore a building on fire showing fire fighters what's going on.
  • Stone is hard as rock! Lol! Can we make super tough cameras that can be thrown about, that can be hit and abused without getting damaged.
  • Stones are used as weights. Can cameras be used to weigh something down? Provide balast and function as recording device. Could you workout with a camera?
  • Light makes an impression on camera film and forms a picture. Could stones be used to make impression on soft substances to create pictures?
  • Stones that absorb light and release it when it's dark?

Hey I just did a Google Image search and found this neat Photoshop competition page where the theme is to combine new and vintage ideas. And guess what? Someone's visualised my stone camera! Lol!

Creative THinking Exercise 001: Combining Ideas -- stone and camera

And here's a guy who has combined ideas and made a stone camera obscura (pin hole camera).

Combining ideas - stone and camera = stone camera obscura!

And here's a camera hidden in a brick:

Combining ideas - putting a camera in a brick

Okay, so you see the process. What have I missed? What else can YOU think of?

You'll notice as you practice combining ideas that a lot of ideas have no obvious immediate application. To you and me. But someone else may have specialised knowledge in a certain field, and they will have the know how to take your basic possibility thought and see how it could be applied in a practical way.

Okay, here is the list of words you can choose from. Feel free to choose your own words. Mine are just a starter list. You can combine as many as you want but I suggest starting with two to begin with.

cherry, car, mobile phone, internet, gun, pen, lion, track, petrol, fire, candy, machine, ocean, airplane, bread, legs, brick, drug, bicycle, camel, juice, shoe, compact disk, wheel, hair, light, leaves, gravel, judge, scissors, steam, lips, mouse, wood, money, crystal ball, guitar, hypnosis, cloud, zip, handle, book, software, King, sex, flame, raison, mirror, gas, space ship, diver, drill, axe, heart, saint, teeth, child, swan, sing, ball, zoo, cloth, yeast, death, desire, damp, window, engine, ear, umbrella, tent, toenail, fur, fart, friend, tie, scales, grandmother, grease, jam, kite, language, marriage, noise, onion, pizza, pirate, question, radar, smell, tennis, underwear, value, wax, fox, screen