Using A No-Tech Innovation Tool

As Gerald Haman sat in gridlocked, Chicago-area traffic, he noticed something dangling from the rear-view mirror of the car idling beside his.
It wasn't a crystal or a pine-scented deodorizer; it was a black card pack with the word "KnowBrainer" printed in lopsided block letters across the front.
Thrilled and excited, Haman began signaling the driver to roll down her window. To assure her of his good intentions, he smiled widely and pointed to his own "KnowBrainer" card deck, which had been resting on the seat next to him.
The curious driver rolled down her window and listened as Haman explained why he was so eager to connect with her: He'd invented the KnowBrainer Creativity and Innovation Tool. As its creator, he wanted to hear how a customer was using it in her life and work - and, most particularly, in her car.
The woman, who heads an advertising agency in Chicago, told Haman she uses the card deck to generate ideas while she's stuck in traffic. To capture ideas, she said she speaks into a voice-activated tape recorder.
The ad exec is one of many people using the latest idea-generating tool available from SolutionPeople, a creativity and innovation coaching firm Haman founded in 1989. The 3-ounce, no-tech KnowBrainer features 100 colorful cards with carefully researched icons, questions, key words and quotations designed to trigger ideas and aid in problem solving.
The tool features "the top 100 words for guiding the process of innovation" - words it took Haman almost 10 years to identify.
"A word can be worth a thousand pictures, if you have the right word," Haman said in a recent interview. Through creativity sessions conducted with more than 100,000 people, Haman said he discovered "which words have the greatest impact and trigger the most ideas."
The trigger words and questions in the KnowBrainer tool, sold by SolutionPeople for $100 (www.solutionpeople.com), make up a four-step problem-solving system.

Haman calls the Diamond Solution Process." The steps include:
1. Investigate needs. Ask yourself questions such as: what is needed, wanted or wished? What should people know? What should people feel? Who are the customers? What are the facts?
2. Create ideas. Ask questions such as: What might be changed? What is impossible to do today, but if it could be done, would change the situation? What might be substituted, combined, adapted, magnified, put to other uses, eliminated, rearranged or reversed?
3. Evaluate solutions. Consider questions such as: What are the potential evaluation criteria? Which of the ideas generated might address key goals and needs? What are the best potential solutions, and how should they be prioritized?
4. Activate plans. "This step focuses people's thinking," Haman noted. "They leave (a meeting or an individual problem-solving session) with a summary of the process they've used" and a set of clearly defined action steps they will take.
Follow the steps defined by the KnowBrainer and you'll see your creative ability start to rise, Haman promised. "The KnowBrainer is like software for the brain," he said. "The more you use it, the more your brain become programmed" to think innovatively. He's so confident the tool can help anyone generate ideas that he offers a "Return on ideas" guarantee. "If you don't generate ideas worth at least $50, send it back," and SolutionPeople will refund your money, he said.

By Linda Stockman-Vines