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Looking For Innovation? Try The Yellow Pages

Yellow_pagesLooking for Innovation?  It's most likely located between "Hospitals" and "Juice Bars."

I've been using this creativity exercise for so long, I can't even remember where/when I learned it, but I do know it's not original to me.  One of the most powerful concepts of creativity is the power of connectedness (or combination)... pulling together two dissimilar concepts or ideas into one.  Last night, I gave my Drake "Creativity for Business" students small sections of the Yellow Pages I had torn out of the local phone directory.  Each group had at least two sections.  I challenged them to come up with as many new product/service ideas as they could by combining one entry or heading from one of the phone book sections with a completely different one from another.  With their creativity in overdrive, here are some of the results:

  • Combining "Fraternal Organizations" and "Assisted Living" yielded the "Frats & Old Bats" alliance
  • "Airlines" and "Escorts" merged into the "Mile High Club"
  • "Funeral Homes" and "Appliances" collided into a sort of do-it-yourself cremation service called "The Oven"
  • Don't even ask what happened when "Annuities" and "Fleas" were meshed
  • "Pizza Delivery" and "Bars & Nightclubs" created a new chauffeur service that picked you up from the bar and delivered you and your pizza safely home at 2 AM
  • "Heating Pumps" and "Bras & Lingerie" came up with a heated bra (I'm sure a big seller on a cold Iowa Winter day like today)
  • "Wigs" and "Mini-Blinds" formed a new hairpiece where the length could be adjusted by a twist of a rod.
  • My students wouldn't tell me what yielded the "Red Neck Dating Service:  Getting Outside the Family Tree" but I think I heard somebody muttering something about "ATVs" and "Genealogy"

You get the idea.  The ideas don't have to be good.  They get people laughing, relaxed, and talking, providing an excellent environment for your team to tackle their own innovative problem solving.  All it takes is one phone book and a lot of imagination to get the creative juices flowing.


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Scot Herrick

Kate and I are on holiday in Ireland and are taking the day to rest after a solid six days of traveling and running around the countryside -- starting a guided tour on Sunday for a week.

In any case, we're surfing our favorite sites and came upon this post -- and laughed quite out loud.

Thanks for sharing. Think about how much of the world's problems could be solved if this sort of creativity could be focused on them.

Brett Trout

Great post. It is always amazing to see the results when people knock down barriers and let the creative juices flow.

Timothy Johnson

Scot - thanks for stopping by from Ireland. Glad to provide a laugh... and a possible solution for creativity.

Brett - knocking down barriers is what it's all about.

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