Concept Generation: Conceptual Blockbusting and Brainstorming

ME 290P and BA 296-3

Professor Alice Agogino

Dr. Sara L. Beckman

Concept Generation Process (Ulrich and Eppinger)

Five Stages of the Creative Process

Creative Design Process

Concept Generation Exercise

There are many techniques for brainstorming. One involves using post-its and engaging an entire group in silent generation and grouping of ideas prior to discussion of them. Other processes involve facilitating a group conversation and collecting ideas on flipcharts, whiteboards, etc. There is also software (e.g., by Ventana Corp.) that supports brainstorming exercises. Brainstorming will be useful at many points in your project, not just at the concept generation stage.

The perspective each team took in generating ideas clearly biased their results. The plastic bag manufacturers generated very specific ideas with respect to bags, while the golf course maintenance company took a much broader perspective. Note that both the broad and deep views yield different ideas. You may want to experiment in your groups with both perspectives.

Brainstorming -- Organization

Brainstorming -- Divergent Thinking

Brainstorming -- Convergent Phase

Conceptual Blockbusting (Jim Adams)

Conceptual Blocks (Jim Adams)

Perceptual Blocks (Jim Adams)

Perceptual blocks are obstacles that prevent the problem-solver from clearly perceiving either the problem itself or the information needed to solve the problem

Perceptual Stereotyping

Perceptual stereotyping is part of the explanation for the success of various types of optical trickery. It is not all bad, as it allows people to complete incomplete data. However, it can be a handicap in perceiving new combinations.

Emotional Blocks (Jim Adams)

Cultural Blocks (Jim Adams)

Cultural blocks are acquired by exposure to a set of cultural patterns. Sometimes they get codified into law, and are not challenged as society changes.

Environmental and Organizational Blocks (Jim Adams)

Intellectual and Expressive Blocks (Jim Adams)

There are many tools for overcoming conceptual blocks. The following approach to creativity comes from a book called ThinkerToys. This exercise is similar to some of the exercises you can do with the VizAbility software we displayed in class.

SCAMPER: Nine techniques for transforming any object, service, or process into something new






Put to other uses?

Eliminate or Minify?



What would be the relative advantages and disadvantages of involving actual customers in the concept generation process?

For what types of products would the initial focus of the concept generation activity be on the form and user interface of the product and not on the core technology?