What Pringles can teach you about innovation, creativity and problem solving

Delicious potato chips in bowl isolated on white

When you get stuck, remember Pringles.

I’m thinking of Pringles right now, as I prepare for one of the biggest corporate training gigs I’ve ever had. Customising my training program to this organisation’s very specific needs, for so many people, means that I am almost starting from scratch, and I need to give shape to the squillion ideas and disparate bits of information flying around in my brain. It’s enough to throw even the most seasoned pro, let alone me, into overwhelm.

Except overwhelm doesn’t get a look-in when I sit down, and before anything else, have a brainstorm session.

We’re all familiar with brainstorming: we may have done it in primary school, when the ideas flew like so many spitballs, or secondary, when the teacher may as well have been extracting teeth instead of ideas, or much later at work, where I sincerely hope there was an actual point and you got some awesome work done. Or at least got some great Danish pastries.

The problem with brainstorming these days is that often, people think the ideas are just supposed to pop into your head. But what if your brain isn’t up to storming? What if it can’t even manage a brisk breeze?

The inventor of brainstorming, Alex Faickney Osborn, never intended for brainstorming to just happen on its own. He intended it to be guided – either self-guided or by others. Osborn was a bit of a creativity genius, and in his 1957 book he came up with a set of question prompts to guide the brainstorming process. His questions have been responsible for too many solved problems, innovations, and brilliant ideas to count. This includes Pringles, which came about when a group of brainstormers sat down and asked the fateful question, “What would happen if we combined potato chips with tennis ball cans?”

I have created a nifty little poster for you to print and put up on a wall or pinboard for the next time you get stuck. And you will get stuck, but you know what? If a chip can combine with a tennis ball can, then you can pretty much solve or create anything.



Photo credit: © belchonock via DepositPhotos