differentiated thought before cutting metal

On one of my recent posts, you kind people pointed out that there are many ways of doing something. Simple observations are often the most profound.
I'm not a master at being able to see a problem from different angles and visualize different solutions. It seems that some parts of one idea affect another so the ideas are not independent, not "clean" and compartmentalized. I met with my guys today and discussed if we could figure out how to think about different ways of doing things we are developing. I want multiple solutions presented and thinking out of the box. It seems there is always a brute-force method of doing something yet the "other" idea, the one that springs into existence at the odd hour, is often better, cheaper and more elegant. How do you attract those "other" ideas?
Is there a method or exercises to develop creative thinking? Cutting metal and drilling holes is the easy part, how do you completely forget an idea in order to "see" a new idea? This may come easily for an intelligent person but I struggle with my mental limitations.
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Depending upon the individual, there may be several methods.
1. Read a good Sci-Fi book and get your mind out of this Universe. 2. Go back to basics: step through the problem incorporating the most minute level of detail that you can envision and, then, break each step down at least 4 times into smaller parts. This will often show up gaps in prior analysis. 3. Before attempting an automated answer, carefully step through the process of making 1 item manually. This may show the need for either additional steps or an additional machine. -Then- automate it. 4. If none of these (or any combination of them) seem to work, address the problem in reverse: start out with the finished product (visualized or actual) and then determine what the immediately-preceding step would have been. Repeat as necessary until each component has been resolved back to a rod/bar/block of material. Carry out steps in reverse order to produce more of whatever it is.
Personally, I tend to use all 4. <grin>
FWIW, when in doubt, my practice is to use the lowest-level of technology that can possibly deliver the desired results when working out either a new idea or a new item.
I've found that, all too often, low-tech can accomplish tasks (albeit more slowly) than high-tech off-the-shelf can for the simple reason that high-tech is simply a means of speeding up one aspect of low-tech. (Example: A prototype can be "adjusted" more easily with manually- controlled equipment than on CNC gear.)
BTW, there's a Fifth Method: find the laziest person skilled enough to understand what you're looking for and hand HIM/HER the problem (preferably with a deadline).
You can rest assured that he/she will find the easy way. <grin>
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Distraction, un-direction, mind clearing Breakdown Visualization Top-down/bottom-up Simplification Delegation
You understand exactly what I'm trying to say!
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BTDT! <grin>
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It's been said that Necessity is the Mother of Invention. False; Laziness is the true Mother ;)
Free men own guns - www(dot)geocities(dot)com/CapitolHill/5357/
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Old story, supposedly about Henry Ford:
While Ford was guiding a visitor through his plant, the visitor saw a guy sitting with his feet up on his desk, apparently half-asleep. The visitor asked Ford how he could tolerate such blatant laziness. Ford replied: "Last year that man came up with ideas that either saved or made me millions of dollars. He's about due for another one or two. He can sit at that desk forever for all I care!"
The old Bell Labs/Western Electric supposedly incorporated a pond and a few boats. There were always a few boats out with guys laying back, thinking. Wonder how many improvements came off that pond.
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Don't even try to force them: they'll either come on their own or they won't come at all.
Keep a tape/digital voice recorder handy so that when the idea -does- come you can make a record of it that you can refer back to.
A pad of quadrille (graph) paper and something to write/draw with is another good thing to have at hand.

Take time to play "What If" in your head: What if we could extrude our own wire - could we feed it directly into a machine while it was still hot and, if so, could the cutter do double duty as a "pinch" feeder?"
Things like that.
--

I used to be an anarchist but had to give it up: _far_ too many rules.


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Oh yea, I learned a long time ago to have paper and pen within reach at all times.
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On Fri, 05 Sep 2008 05:21:50 GMT, with neither quill nor qualm, Eregon

Amen to that. Whenever I try to force invention it always eludes me. The second I let it go and start to really focus on something else, it comes along. That kind of crap screws up vacation days some thing fierce. <g>

BTDT. You'll keep it with you only if you hang it from a strap around your neck. Otherwise, it's never where you are.

Staples has dozen-packs of legal pads for $5.99 or a dozen 5x8" pads for $4.49. I keep a pack of each strewn all aroudn the house, shop, and vehicle. I write down ideas wherever I come across them.

Ditto getting a pad and drawing/doodling. Alternatively, get on a computer with a copy of CAD, CAM, or SketchUp and draw it to scale.
-- Who is wise? He that learns from every One. Who is powerful? He that governs his Passions. Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody. -- Benjamin Franklin
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wrote:

There are a bunch of methods. Consultants make big bucks devising and presenting various silver-bullet schemes. They're all pretty much uncommon sense but managers who never had an original idea in their lives are easy marks for these pitchmen.
I think a very good way to do this is to identify someone who is naturally good at it, however irritating they might be, and try to learn a bit how they do it by observing them. Hurt yer head a bit, have damage containment measures thought out in advance.
A key trick is not to suppress creativity. Really! If you have a strong need to be viewed as "The Leader" or "The Mind", you'll suppress some very creative but non-assertive folks. You've said before that you enjoy arguments. Some don't, particularly with the boss. Based on stuff you've written before, You might need to subordinate self to mission to achieve what you say you'd like to achieve, and you might have a bit of difficulty doing that. Stick your ego in a drawer and lock it. Then be patient because smart folks are suspicious of changes in behavior. Give it at least months. Study how small children approach problems. There is nobody more creative than a child. I'm not kidding! You need to adapt of course, but little kids naturally think out of the box because they've not yet been indoctrinated into paradigm paralysis.
Avoid PhD's. I've known a couple of very creative PhD's but most of them had all the creativity beat out of them by the educational process. Winning a PhD is often more a matter of endurance than brilliance, albeit with some very notable exceptions.
Warning: creative people tend to be "wierd", and they can be hugely irritating to some.
How do I know this? I ran a skunk works for 15 years. I picked up talent off the layoff list, people that were regarded as "unmanagable". My own personnel folder had a flag saying "unmanagable". Everyone in my little band of mavericks won at least one patent, most had several. Two of them won the corp's highest awards for technical achievement though neither of them had engineering degrees at the time.
I won a bunch of patents, domestic and foreign. Coupla dozen I guess. I deliberately avoided filing any disclosures during the 15 years I ran the skunkworks because I wanted it very clear that I was not in competition with my teammates. I diverted my creativity toward defending my team from bureaucratic bullshit. That was fun!
I irritated the hell out ofsome folks, not intentionally but shit happens. They chose to be irritated. Having fun was high on the priority list for my little band of mavericks.
None of us got rich. None of us cared. Our next reunion is scheduled to happen in a couple of weeks. Khanh Vu is coordinating.
I wasn't supposed to hire Khanh, she was a check-the-box minority interview. I got yelled at by H.R. for actually hiring her. She didn't speak English as well as most applicants. She'd been in charge of a lot of stuff in Saigon, was on the last plane out with a 50,000 piaster price on her head. I liked her attitude: "no probrem!" "OK, but how will you accomplish your assignment?" "I don't know yet, no probrem." (You're hired!) She became a teammate very quickly.
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Thereby showing great wisdom. That one answer would have done it for me too. "I don't know yet, no problem:" priceless!
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Don Foreman wrote:

Cool! You've got to tell us more stories about this - unless this is the kind of skunk works where you'd have to kill us after telling us.
Jon
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Take your crew out for a pizza one day and announce that you are going to have an idea contest.
The concept here is to let the crew that sits and stares at the machinery all day long put forward ideas to increase profitability.
Then offer to share some of the increased profits with those ideas that are implemented and make the company more money.
I seem to recall that Henry Ford did this, and some of the best ideas came from very surprising sources.
--

Roger Shoaf

About the time I had mastered getting the toothpaste back in the tube, then
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wrote:

Listening helps a lot. I mean really listening, not forming counter-arguments in your mind while somebody's talking. The other thing is to take the ego out of it. People love to talk about their stuff if they think you're there to help instead of take credit.
I do this stuff a little, in addition to my project work. Supervision will send me to a lab where progress is not being made, or they don't think things are going the right direction. Mostly, I just go, drink coffee, bullshit, and convince the recipients of the "help" that I really don't give a damn about the credit. That part's easy, because I don't.
Then I watch, listen, and ask questions when I don't understand something. My experience is they'll usually tell me exactly what's wrong during the first day, sometimes the first hour. The last time, I told them I could help, and how, designed the fix (a better controlled tiny reactor), had it built, flew back with it and helped them install it. They were off to the races, and it was their project. I got out of there. Except they had some other cool ideas so I built them some other stuff to help them get more experiments done.
It was fun.
Pete Keillor
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One way is to take the preferred/1st method and think about what you'd do as a backup because 'that' machine is out of service, or 'that' process will damage the workpiece.
Dave
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Tom Gardner wrote:

I don't think that can be either taught or learned, it is one of those things that some have and others don't. ...lew...
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On Fri, 05 Sep 2008 08:30:15 -0600, with neither quill nor qualm, Lew

I disagree to some extent, Lew. (Can you handle that capital in your name, dude? ;)
I think everyone is both psychic and creative, but most have simply had this muffled, usually during their schooling, where "everyone has to fit in." Peers who have had the same stifling upbringing are also now born and bred quenchers of ideas, either by social code or by ego. (If I'm not allowed to think it, you aren't, either!)
But most creative people can't do so under stresses like time limits or strict performance requirements. True creativity is a fleeting thing, and even a slight nudge or restriction can knock it out of kilter. The subconscious mind continues working on problems while we do other things. That's why so many ideas come to us after we have given up on them and moved to other tasks.
Self-confidence works wonders on creativity, but it has to be earned by the mind needing it, not given by someone else. Encouragement helps, like Pete said (+ removing your ego from their project), but it's the mind doing the work which needs to process things.
As to learning creativity, I think that's merely uncovering the muffler society has put on us, then unraveling it to get to our own kernel of truth and wonder.
-- Who is wise? He that learns from every One. Who is powerful? He that governs his Passions. Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody. -- Benjamin Franklin
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Don Foreman and Pete Keillor have already presented excellent recommendations. Let's look at some of the starting assumptions:
1. This is a group-think approach - everyone leaves their title and authority at the door. Pulling rank stifles creativity. 2. The hard facts and the negotiable concerns are written on a board where all can see. There will be no surprises at the end to kill an otherwise good idea. 3. Courtesy and respect are obviously present. There are no "crazy" ideas. Just write them down and move on. Each speaker has a time limit and is not interrupted unless they choose to invite another person to speak. 4. There's always a contrarian in the crowd. That's usually me. Questions as to why something has to be done a certain way. Just like a person's first day on the job. Question assumptions. 5. There is a moderator/facilitator for the discussion and it's not a manager. It's someone who has that skill to ensure that each has his say but no more. 6. Closure is essential. The ideas presented and the ones selected are written and all participants get a copy. The attendees are listed. It is a form of "recognition" for their participation.
A truly great discussion is the result of polite presentation of apparently conflicting ideas that ends with consensus. I realize that personalities and egos are at stake. Those get left at the door as well. A person is not "bad" for making a suggestion or asking a question that does not work. Just keep a time limit on it.
Tom
wrote:

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Write out a complete description of the problem as if you were explaining it to a new person. This forces you to examine every aspect of it. I think up a lot of new ideas while composing postings here.
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My experience was that solutions to problems often popped up after leaving work and overnight when the day's pressures were off. I suggest having your staff brain-storming sessions first thing in the morning when everyone is fresh and rested (and never at the end of the day when they're tired and just want to go home). Include the secretary and the floor sweeper; sometimes these folks know a lot more about what's really going on than they're given credit for.
There is a tendency in brain-storming sessions for the natural-born critics to jump on every new idea and expound at length on why it won't work. Don't allow this (at least not beyond the point where the identification of legitimate considerations are being politely identified). Criticism and censure stifle the expression of thoughts formed "outside the box".
David Merrill

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