The Elements of Creativity: Attributes Listing Method

by : Dr. Alvin Chan

Attribute listing is one of the best ways to generate ideas, whereby there any many parts to the problem/ challenge faced. If you are asked to generate ideas or solutions to a complex challenge, the first thing you can do is to list all the attributes of your problem.

These may include:

  • Physical

  • Mental

  • Emotional

  • Social

  • and more (depending on the complexity of the challenge)

By doing so, you can then concentrate on each attribute at a time. This will no doubt give you more peace of mind (and pulling of your hairs) when generating your ideas.

The attribute listing technique is often used in a Research & Development (R&D) department of many companies, especially those who are constantly producing innovative products to have an advantage over their competitors.

Let’s go through this worked example to give you a better understanding of how attributes listing can be of help to you.

For example, if your challenge is to design a new ladies’ handbag, you could list the attributes as: the physical aspects which include- shape, length, colour, materials used and on the emotional aspects-the stress some women faced of misplacing their handbags. You might choose to first tackle the emotional stress of losing one’s handbag by creating a new small gadget to be placed within the handbag to sound the owner that she is moving too far away (maybe one or two metre away) from her ‘treasure chest’. After that, you could work on the other attributes, one by one, be it the shape or materials used for the handbag.

Putting Your Elements to Work:

Try to generate oodles of ideas using attributes listing with these sets of challenges:

1. Design a new toy for children under 6 years old to teach them simple arithmetic. Safety is an important attribute.

2. Create a campaign to encourage people to stop smoking. (Think through the attributes: Physical, Mental, Emotional and Social)

3. Set up an effective marketing plan (there are many parts to a good marketing plan: the 4 P’s – Product, Price, Place and Promotion) for your new products.

Have Fun!