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Using a Modifying Word List

For more creative solutions to problems we need to get our minds looking in new directions. A systematic way to do this is to use a list of idea-generating words - primarily adjectives - to create "what if?" scenarios. Begin with the question, "What if it was..." and insert a word from the list. "It" can the problem you're trying to solve, or the situation or solution that exists at the moment.

For an example of the technique in action, we'll pretend you want a better job, and that you are a clerk at a bookstore. You aren't satisfied with the work, and it also doesn't pay well. You pull out the word list and ask "What if it was..."

Larger

That makes you think of a better position perhaps. It also makes you think of a larger store, where you might be paid more, or have more opportunity for advancement.

Smaller

The problem could be smaller if you got a raise, and found a few ways to make the work more interesting. Maybe a smaller store would pay even less per hour, but be open to your ideas for increasing sales, and pay you a percentage of profits.

Farther away

This make you realize that you have been too narrow in your search. It could be worth driving a little to get a better higher-paying job. Maybe it's even time to move to another town.

Closer

Could you get a job nearby and sell your car? The money saved would be like a large raise.

More difficult

Selling magazines by phone like your friend does would be more difficult, but he makes $5 an hour more than you. If you hate the job anyway, why not make more money?

Take notes as you do this exercise, and develop the ideas later. Most words won't give you useful ideas, but don't dismiss them without a few seconds of thought. Creative solutions can begin with unrelated thoughts. "What if it was hopeless?" may seem useless, but it could also bring you to the useful realization that you need a business instead of a job.

The Modifying Word List

The list here is a basic one. Use it as is, but remember that there are hundreds of idea-generating words you could add to it. Any adjectives, descriptive phrases, or words that can change your perspective can be potentially useful.

What if it was...

larger
smaller
farther away
closer
sooner
later
easier
more difficult
softer
harder
poorer
richer
wetter drier
higher
lower
longer
shorter
white
black
certain
uncertain
newer
older
calmer
more exciting
boring
interesting
more casual
more serious
divided
combined
subtle
extravagant
more common
less common
faster
slower
better worse
hotter
colder
added to
subtracted from
left alone
hopeless
stickier
happier
relaxed
imaginary
cheaper
more expensive
nothing

Why not make your own modifying word list now (or print out this one), and keep it handy?


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