Welcome to the Random Word tutorial
How to use the Random Word technique
Welcome to the Random Word technique, the most basic and obviously creative technique
where you use a random word (hence the name!) to generate new ideas. By getting
a random word as a prompt and forcing yourself to find out how you can use it
to solve your problem you are practically guaranteed to attack the problem from
a different direction from that you would normally. You take a word from a random
word generator, extract the principles behind it and then apply those principles
to your problem to see how it can help. The skill is stopping your mind from (a)
thinking this is silly and (b) directly using the actual principle behind the
word to your problem without changing it to a principle which is easier to apply.
The first thing you need is the Random Word itself which is classed as the initial
stimulus. Then you establish a Bridging Idea which is an idea which is based on
the stimulus. You then use this idea as a bridge between the stimulus and an idea
which you could actually use on your problem.
Quick example 1:
Using a random word of "Balloon" in the context of new ideas
A Bridging Idea could be that you inflate the balloon under the car. The advantages
of this would be that the car jack would not puncture rusty cars and that cars
could be raised on soft ground.
The resulting final idea could be to have a car jack which spreads the load
over the car and the ground.
Quick example 2:
Using a random word of "Spacecraft" in the context of new ideas
A Bridging Idea would be to consider what would happen if the kitchen was in
space and what would happen because of gravity.
The resulting idea could lead to the fact that you would need to stop the pans
from floating off the cooker/hob. This could lead to using magnets to hold the
pans on (in the real world). This would stop small children from pulling the
hot pans on to themselves. Or how about using a magnetic field to heat the pan?
Where you get the random word is up to you. The quickest and most random way to
get a random word is by using computer software. If you do not have this, flip
though a dictionary and stop randomly, or pick a random page, paragraph and word
from a magazine.
You are welcome to use our free web version which
contains on hundred words to show you how useful it can be. Or click
here to download our Random Word software.
One you have got a random word, there are many ways of using it including:
- Replacing the problem object with the random noun and imagining what would
happen. (P.S. It is easier, safer and cheaper to first do this in your mind
than in reality.) Think it over in your mind and see what you can get out
of it. What does it remind you of regarding your own problem? What are the
benefits from replacing it? If the benefits are original but not practical,
are there any ways you can get the same effect from a more practical means?
If there are no benefits, what are the disadvantages and how might you counter
them? (You cannot escape, whether you think it is good or bad to replace it.
Both points of view can lead to new ideas!)
- Looking at the principles behind the random word and reapplying them to
your own problem. How does the random object behave? Why does it behave like
that? What are the characteristics of it? Why does it fit its own environment
but has not been reapplied elsewhere? Now think of HOW you can apply the principles
to your own problem. The skill is thinking How can we make this work? and
disregarding any initial thoughts it will not work.
- Look at its benefits. Are they benefits you want? How can you get the same
benefits for your own situation? How does the selected word achieve the benefits
and how can you use that principle?
Use the following as an example:
You are working for a car manufacturer in the Wheel department and are trying
to come up with some new ideas about the wheel without re-inventing it. And then
you get given the random word of Toothbrush! What are your initial thoughts? ...
How on earth is this relevant?, What a silly idea, they are totally irrelevant?.
Before you go on, spend a couple of minutes coming up with some new ideas yourself.
Some example ideas you might have come up with (with some working through of the
thinking process behind them which you would not have to write down normally):
Replacing the wheel with a toothbrush:
Imagine the entire tyre of the wheel made of bristles of a toothbrush. What are
- Much better grip in the snow.
- Small stones pass straight through with a minor disturbance Of the bristles.
Cleans the road as it goes.
Resulting relevant Ideas:
- Create a snow tyre where the snow (or water) is forced though holes in
the bottom of the tyre and shot through small tubes in the rubber out of
the tyre and so relieve build up in the tyre grooves.
- Retractable spikes in the tyre.
- Dimples in the tyre so that small stones are not felt by the passenger.
- What other principles are there about toothbrushes?
Features of a toothbrush:
- Some toothbrushes change colour when they have been used for too long.
- Some toothbrushes squirt out toothpaste while you brush.
- They have springy handles to make sure you do not press too hard.
- They have ridges in so that at least some bristles get to the bottom of
the dips in teeth.
- They come in plastic containers for travelling.
- You brush your teeth with them twice a day.
Resulting relevant Ideas:
- How about a tyre which had two layers of coloured rubber so that when
the underneath layer showed, the tyre needed replacing. Also Police could
spot bald tyres from a distance.
- Could a mini-camera spot oil on the road and spray out an oil remover
or could the tyre eject salt in front of the car in the case of ice?
- Could the suspension be a flexible bit of metal instead of a spring and
- If the rubber of the tyre was made of a mixture of hard and soft rubber
then the hard bits would stick into the dimples in the road and stick better.
- Could we sell a cover for car wheels so that in snowy countries the wheels
would not get blocked with snow? Could we use the cover to stop being wheel-clamped?
- Could we produce a device which measured the deterioration of the car
tyre which each person could check everyday (if they wanted to!).
What are the benefits of a toothbrush?
- You don't get rotten teeth.
- It scrapes nasty stuff from your teeth.
- It makes your teeth feel clean and smooth.
Resulting relevant Ideas:
- Could we produce an X-ray device to measure the internal condition of
- People often have to pick out stones from the tyre treads. We could make
a Tread Comb to make this easier and encourage people to do it and so tyres
would last longer. We could make it so it only fitted our tyres and customers
would be more pleased how long ours lasted.
- Can we produce a tyre that sprays the ground water on to the car tyre
and washes itself.
What do you have to be careful of when using the technique?
You must be careful of deciding that a specific word is of no use and getting
another instead. If you do this then often you are just trying to choose a random
word which fits into the problem you are trying to solve and therefore you end
up with a word which is not random. Again, the skill is to work out HOW the word
can be made to fit.
Be careful of creating too many steps in between the Random Word as a stimulus
and coming up with a relevant idea, or you run the risk of ending up with an idea
you already know works. e.g. A suggests B, which suggests C, which suggests D
which is what we are already using
You also have to be careful of linking the word with an idea you already know
about. You have to train your mind not to do this and should take the word at
face value. You must guard against using the technique to come up with an old
idea to show that the old idea is good. E.g. I already like the idea of using
brushes on the inside of the wheel arches to clean the tyre so I will link Toothbrushes
to a wheel to come up with the same idea. Wow, it must be a good idea because
this random technique came up with it.
Other Factors for using the Random Word technique:
Some words will work and others will not, depending on the individual and the
problem. No word is guaranteed better than another, it just depends on the situation.
You could use a large number of words for each problem or a small number but
if you find yourself using a large number then you should question yourself
as to how you are using the word. You may be just searching for a word to fit
with an idea you have already. Of course, sometimes using a continuous stream
of different words can get a large number of ideas too, but ... c'est la vie.
You can also use the Random Word technique for assessing the current situation.
Often by having a word in front of you, you are stimulated to think about different
aspect of the problem. E.g. When I brush my teeth the forces on the toothbrush
are in all different directions, is there a problem with having suspension which
only goes up and down? or When I was a child I hated brushing my teeth, is the
problem with a lot of car journeys that the people in the back hate being there
because they can not see anything?
Often using a Random Word can just remind you of something which you knew all
along but you had forgotten to write it down in your investigation. If you have
thousands of aspects to a problem then even if you know them all it is hard
to remember them all when it actually comes to writing them all down. A Random
Word can often help remind you of them again.
A similar technique, and the next technique to be explained, is the Random Picture
Technique which uses a picture as a stimulus instead of a word. Some people
find it easier to use words than pictures and other people the other way round
whereas some people find both techniques work well for them but for different
aspects of different probortunities. I am afraid you will just have to experiment.
Please try this technique for yourself and you will certainly improve at coming
up with new ideas.
Get a random word now and try this technique out. Click
here for the free interactive technique or Click
here to download our Random Word software.
For more information and training in the brainstorming and creative thinking
techniques, click here and go to www.brainstorming.co.uk
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