What if? A statement that launched a thousand ideas

“What if-ing” is a great way to get your brain into creative thinking mode. My bet is that you already do it every day. Probably multiple times.

Start carrying a small notepad around with you (or use the Notes function on your iPhone or other phone) and catch yourself every time you think: ‘What if…” You’ll note things like:

  • What if I could share an airline lounge membership with a colleague?
  • What if there was a way to drop your kids at school without the   parking headache?
  • What if you could hire corporate suits in the last two months of your pregnancy?

Some of the time, you’ll jump online and find it’s already being done, but if not you’ve got yourself the start of an innovation.

One way to use the “what if” scenarios is to write down the challenge you’re facing, then simply do some “blue sky” thinking for a solution.

Say the challenge is: In what ways can I double the retention time of Gen Y staff?

Allowing ANYTHING to be possible, your “what ifs” might be:

  1. What if the Gen Y ran the company?
  2. What if the Gen Y could work their own hours?
  3. What if we gave this project to the Gen Y’s to solve, with a big incentive?
  4. What if we never employed another Gen Y?
  5. What if we got rid of all other generations?
  6. What if we allowed each Gen Y to put a business case forward for one area of business improvement that they could project manage?


Then, you can expand your thinking on each point by listing a few consequences of each point. Or, go straight to idea-creation mode – work backwards from there and create ideas from the “blue sky” ones that are actually tactical, realistic ideas for the challenge.

  1. We could implement a “CEO for a day” initiative where Gen Y’s who illustrate excellent performance actually get to shadow the CEO for the day and make contributions.
  2. We could alter the Gen Y employment contract to allow them to complete their 38 hours in whatever structure they choose – hfome, after hours, during the day.
  3. In the first instance, we could create an anonymous online survey on the intranet for the Gen Y’s to complete to ensure all of their input is collected.

Is there a situation where you’ve used this? And if you’re about to use it, make a comment to let me know what you come up with

Ps. My biggest idea to date actually came from “what if-ing”. I was brainstorming for a product that could deliver ideas to businesses without me having to be there in person and I was using the word “pillow” to do random word association. Then I came up with “what if you could get ideas while you sleep?” And that became www.ideaswhileyousleep.com which now has clients in 12 different countries and over 400 Ideas Agents in eight countries ranging in age between 15 to 82.


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