Solutionman is Here to Get Everybody Thinking


Rallying for Ideas:  The Thinkathon is organised by the Productivity and Standards Board as part of the Productivity Campaign Rally to commemorate 20 years of the Productivity movement in Singapore.  The guest of honour is Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.  The event will be the world’s largest brainstorming session and could well be a world first for the most ideas generated in one hour.


His business is to make you think.  Meet Mr. Gerald Haman, also known as the “Solutionman”. 

            Ten minutes with him, and I was getting two ideas every minute! Just think:  Today, he will be conducting a “Thinkathon” for 8,000 people at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. The aim:  Generating half a million ideas in an hour, an average of 62.5 ideas per head.

            Think that’s a tall order?  Not for this expert in creative thinking.  He teaches innovation classes at the University of Chicago.  He is also the founder of SolutionPeople, which developed the Thinkathon. He said he has helped companies save over US $2 billion (about $3.5b) since he started the “Thinkathon” sessions in 1996.

            Here’s how it works. He showed me 100 questions split into 20 categories such as health care, housing, economy, government, and innovation.  “Decide which ones you want to answer,” he said. Two questions caught my attention.  “How might we improve education in Singapore?” and “How might our government be more efficient?”

            I started my stop watch and began scribbling away on a notepad.  Music piped out from his laptop to help the flow of ideas.

            In five minutes, I had 12 ideas.  I was then told to stand up and do some simple exercises for about 15 seconds. Then on to more questions. In 10 minutes, I came up with 22 ideas.  Two ideas a minute. But doesn’t it encourage people to write without much thought? “This is a tested way of generating ideas and the key lies in having broad, open-ended questions which encourage people to come up with ideas,” replied  Solutionman.


By Lee Tee Jong - 09/04/2001