A to Z of
Creativity Techniques

From Osborn’s original checklist, magnify (or ‘stretch’) and minify (or ‘compress’) are two of the idea generating transformations, both of which are forms of exaggeration. The table below shows a selection of exaggerations to illustrate the problem: ‘I need a lot of capacity in my Reprographics Department to cope with a few key peak loads, but this means that for much of the time much of it is idle’.

Forms of Exaggeration Type Examples
Exaggerate upwards Magnify I have a million photocopiers standing idle
Exaggerate downwards Minify My photocopiers are barely used at all
Exaggerate scope Invade context The whole organisation is underused
Exaggerate significance Aggrandise Our over-capacity is a nation scandal
Exaggerate selectively Caricature Reprographics Rest Home!

Why does exaggeration appear to work? Because we often have mindsets related to the scale of a problem and whilst there might be a form of action that is acceptable in a crisis it is not in a lesser problem.

To test your unspoken assumptions about the scale of the problem, you should think about what would be appropriate if the problem were of a different order of magnitude. Exaggerated solutions can often be applied directly, although the more likely scenario is that you will find they are inappropriate as they stand, but may suggest other ideas that would be acceptable.

Similar principles can also be effective when building on ideas for solutions. Imagine you are in search of way to prevent vandalism by youngsters, someone suggests: ‘Keep them in after school’. You could build on this idea by exaggerating it in various ways. E.g. magnify it to ‘Keep them in permanently’ suggesting giving them a permanent role (e.g. school monitor) or minimise it to ‘Gentle restraint after school’ suggesting ideas such as an after school club that they may actually enjoy. Structured Version

  1. Define the problem to be addressed or the idea you need to develop
  2. Make a list of all the component parts of the idea or if a problem, its objectives and constraints.
  3. Choose one component from the list in 2.
  4. Develop ways of exaggerating it and note them on a separate sheet.
  5. Note down all ideas you have from 4.
  6. Repeat ad lib from step 3.