Stimuli, Scaffolding, Seeing — for Innovative Ideas

Guerilla Innovation Chapter Eight

Everything is Stimuli for Scaffolding to Better Ideas

In my last post I introduced you to the concept of “Scaffolding”. For those who are starting here, it’s essentially a thinking tool to take your mind to a new place — an aid in the objective of coming up with an innovative idea for your small business. It might even be The Innovative Idea that starts a new business (hopefully with the clear point of difference I talked about in Chapter One (Even a Pizza Shop Has a Point of Difference) of this online “blogged book.”

In order to take your innovation thinking (particularly in this idea generation phase) to the next level, you need to combine Scaffolding with everything you see , here’s the message:  Everything is Stimulus for Scaffolding.

In the previous post my example used a tool of “forced association” and I did a collision between the unrelated concepts of a blood test and the marketing challenge of booking more public speeches. The scaffolding part is the attribute listing around associations with blood tests, then, thinking about what those associations have to do with my marketing challenge. So, scaffolding is a way to explore associations and discover connections. The hope is an innovative idea pops-up — an idea pop-tart. It’s not a logical or analytical process. Instead it’s a free-associative oven for a freshly baked innovation idea.

The enemy of fresh thinking in idea generation is the existing patterns you’ve already established in your mind. Once we learn something we store away that pattern and it becomes hard wired. Once you’ve touched a hot stove, you don’t to that again. Once you ‘know’ that a customer is a complainer, you see things through that lens.  Mental patterns often prevent us from making new connections.

Now, the point of this chapter of Guerilla Innovation is to form a new daily practice, a behavior. Use everything you see and experience as scaffolding stimuli to help you see new connections. If you want fresh ideas you have to keep asking your mind to go to new places and to attempt to make new connections. How? You keep asking questions — triggered by the everyday stimuli that is always, constantly, in front of you.

Let’s imagine you are out with your partner at the Hard Rock Cafe. You are having a beverage and a nice chat. As the band launches into their set you both sit back and listen. Normally, you’d just enjoy the moment. What I’d have you do (at least sometimes) is observe the stimulus, free-associate about it, then ask yourself “what is the connection between this loud rock music and my business challenge?” Then you mentally walk through what the rock music (or that unusual dancer, or that great guitar design, or that way the lights change…) suggests to you. You do that associative scaffolding in order to help you make a connection. More often than not it will be a dead end — big ideas don’t come along every day. However, if you do this often enough your brain will become better at making fresh connections and thinking up new ideas and you’ll hit the jackpot eventually.

And of course, if you make a new connection, you’ll be writing it down in your Notebook right?

I’m not finished yet with the whole concept of Scaffolding, this was part 2 of 3. The next post will talk more about Mash-Ups and how powerful they can be in Idea Generation. Until then, start looking at everything with a question in mind — what does this have to do with my challenge?  Because Everything is Stimuli for Innovative Ideas — if you choose to See it that way.

Stimuli, Scaffolding, Seeing.

I’m curious — what do you find intriguing, difficult, or interesting about the idea of Scaffolding? Please comment.


This post is the 8th chapter in an online innovation book tailored for small business with the working title of Guerilla Innovation. If you want to start at the beginning and read the entire book, start at the introduction, here.  For the next chapter, Chapter Nine, click here.

The pre-cursor book to this online book on small business innovation (aka Guerrilla Innovation) is Jack’s Notebook, a business novel about creative problem solving.  This is a great story that blends all the concepts of Guerrilla Innovation into one fast-paced, thriller type book. Yes, Jack does Notebooking and a form of Scaffolding as part of the story. Stories are a great way to integrate learning!


Posted in Books & Reviews, Creative Problem Solving (CPS), Creativity and Self-Expression, Entrepreneurial, Innovation