From the June 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

Getting customers' attention in a boisterous economy is a real challenge. Fresh ideas and a new approach will help you stand out in a crowded marketplace. One technique to help you generate new ideas is called "Windtunnel," and its aim is to produce a strong flow of thoughts to blow you beyond your standard responses.

This technique, introduced to me by its originator, creativity expert Win Wenger, is done in pairs. Once you and a partner decide on the issue or problem you need to address, each of you makes a list of three questions about the topic to be discussed.

Number the questions. They should address different areas or aspects of the solution you're seeking. Then decide who is going to generate the wind--that is, be the speaker--and who is going to be the listener.

The speaker chooses a number between one and three. From among the three questions, the listener reads that numbered question to the speaker. The speaker then tells the listener in a descriptive, rapid-flow torrent everything that comes to mind while the listener writes down the most worthwhile ideas. The listener is very important because he or she helps the speaker sustain the flow for six minutes straight. In this process, no thought should be censored as too silly or too far-removed.

If the speaker runs out of ideas, the listener can prompt him or her with evocative questions. For example, questions that change the current reality can spark fresh solutions that work very well in your actual situation. If you were in a different country or your customers were in a different age group, what would you do? What if you were in another profession--an artist, news reporter, scientist or construction worker--how would you approach this question differently?

Six minutes can seem like a long time to keep generating ideas and associations. But remember, the purpose of this technique is to help us go beyond our usual and habitual thoughts. As you use this technique, you'll see that the best ideas usually emerge during the last minutes.

At the end of the time period, the speaker writes down what he or she thinks are the most interesting ideas, and the listener takes this opportunity to jot down any additional thoughts. The partners then change roles and repeat the exercise.

Once you have reviewed the notes and chosen the best ideas, they can be further refined and the evaluation and implementation process can begin.


Juanita Weaver is a creativity coach. Tell her how your firm sparks creativity at juanita@juanitaweaver.com.