Five Dresses – A Forced Association

Creative inspiration is everywhere you look. When I see something interesting I make an effort to connect it — use it — to help me with some challenge I’m processing.

These five dresses were hung up at an open market in High Wycombe. I found them intriguing because of the color, and the diversity of looks (polka dots!), and it was a bit of a nice surprise to turn the corner and see them.

The technique is called Forced Association and it forms the basis for many creative thinking tools. It’s not always easy — because you are creating a brand new connection in your mind — nothing may come to you immediately.  If you can’t seem to make a connection, make a list of words that are attributes of what you see.  Images may also come to mind.  Write them all down.  Then, review your list and ask yourself to make a connection between your challenge. Then you can take the additional step of asking yourself for some ideas based on the new connection. Over time you won’t need to break it down so much, you’ll go straight from the stimulus to ideas. Like many things associated with creative thinking, practice with this tool makes perfect.

So, I’ve been thinking about a team building training I’m doing soon, and am seeking ideas on how to maximize a smallish budget for materials. Part of the day is a sort of party/celebration.  I look at these dresses and list these words: surprising, colorful, diverse, flashy, cheap, fun, unusual, different, display, ladies, off shoulder, and retro.

Colorful has me thinking of crayons, cheap has me thinking popcorn, butcher paper and balloons, diverse has me thinking ball masks (not sure why?!), and surprise has me thinking water pistols.  The ball masks is something I never would have thought of without the tool!

Try this yourself on your current creative challenge.

    • About the Ball Masks, former Piston basketball player Rick Mahorn says this about the success of his former coach Chuck Daly: “He did an unbelievable job of taking a bunch of different personalities and moulding them into a team.” In the corporate culture we should leave our baggage at the door, don the corporate culture mask and work as one team. Chuck Daly would have made a great CEO of General Motors!

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