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Need New Ideas? Just 'Hit The Deck!"

Creative Thinking
Marilyn Schoeman Dow


What do you do when you need to get the creative juices flowing, and there's no time to prime the pump? How can you get the ideas - quickly - for landing a client, creative an ad, Improving the product, process or service?

So far, there's no in-house Inspiration Station. You can't just hook up your head to electrodes and suddenly and predictably produce creative brain wave - loaded with ideas likely to be trendsetters and benchmarks.

However, creating a product to help people thing creatively - instantly - is the challenge I've been struggling with for more than a decade. The early years of research and product design efforts resulted in The Idea Generator.

The charts work well - and quickly - for many, but not everyone. Using the product itself, along with customer feedback, led to the next generation, The Idea Activator. It added an interactive element and more tools, produced on a Rolodex-style base.

This also worked well, but not with everyone. Continuing the search for ways to help anyone think creatively - on demand - my efforts were redirected to totally different format - a game. After a great deal of development time and focus-group work, the third generation was born. It finally accomplishes the original goal with almost everyone.

It began as one - then became three - wall charts. They contain a problem-solving process and an organized system for gaining ideas from nearly 600 versatile thought-starters. Combinations yield many more.

The new game\tool is a card deck, BOFFO-O!tm (Brain O Fast Forward), The Problem Solver's System. It works quickly, easily and powerfully. Of the three, this version is the smallest, most interactive, versatile, comprehensive, portable, practical - and fun. It also has the lowest price (and the most complex production process!) - with the most profound long-term results.

The critical difference between BOFF-O! and the earlier versions is the inclusion of two new elements. Revisions, based on feedback, moved the process from abstract to very concrete. That became the breakthrough to make the process\tool easily and readily understood.

Individuals and small groups use the deck for meetings, consultation, retreats and training session. In a Houston presentation for several hundred, I only needed about two minutes to introduce the process on the screen. Almost immediately, people began popping up with new ideas.

One of the participants got so excited she didn't even wait for the group response. She jumped up and loudly and proudly announced, "I picked the 'Launcher' of SUITCASE and the 'Booster' of MAKE SECURE. And here's My 'AHA!: Make a voice-activated security system for suitcases. If someone tries to take your bag at the airport, their voice won't match yours, so the suitcase shouts, "Help! I'm being stolen!"' That ought to cut down on theft, and it should be a marketable idea!"

Many people play it first as a game. Then they apply it as a tool to gain new insights and options for identified challenges, and to discover others.

An association used BOFF-O to find ways to increase their membership. One engineer shared his idea, "I took the 'Launcher' of TRUMPET and the 'Booster' of CHANGE COATING. That made me think of an AHA! For our 'Target' of meeting planning. Let's coat them with music. Get a live musician at each meeting, featuring a different instrument each time." People quickly responded favorably to the concept and began exploring that possibility.

Webster defines "boffo" as a play, movie, song, etc., that is a great popular success, a hit. The name seems a perfect fit - both for meaning and the acronym. A series of fits preceded the term. Creating and effective name - period - let alone one that could be traded marked - required patience, research and more testing.

After pausing a few moments to celebrate the fact that the concept really works, marketing and the next development cycle are underway. Several new decks, related products and a book are in progress. One exciting difference that makes the next challenge more appealing is knowing at the outset that the fundamental process - the foundation - is solid.

Client response has become a source of encouragement. Their strong positive reaction helped maintain my motivation and led to crucial product refinement well. All else aside, perseverance remains one of the most critical elements in taking a product - or goal - from inspiration to reality.


Owner of ThinkLink and past-president of the American Creativity Association, Marilyn promotes innovative action, teambuilding and managing change in keynotes, coaching and seminars. Her products include BOFF-O! (Brain On Fast Forward) problem solving deck/system.

For information about presentations and strategizing sessions, contact Ms. Dow at ThinkLink in Seattle, WA by email or by calling 206-200-7212

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