MANY CREATIVITY CONSULTANTS use analogies to “force” creative thinking. Exercises such as “Compare your problem to a toaster” are common. I have mixed feelings about them because, to be honest, I often cannot find meaningful similarities between real-world problems and toasters. Nor can many groups. Yet sometimes an absurd analogy will inspire creative thinking and prove highly worthwhile. So that leaves us with a dilemma: how to take advantage of the benefits of analogies but avoid artificial, difficult “force fits.”

This method is one solution I stumbled across in my own creativity work. It uses a toolbox full of tools as a ...

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