Creative Technique: Cake Split

Sometimes the solution to a problem lies within the problem itself. Cake Split allows you to take a challenge apart and then reassemble the parts into new ideas.

Giving a child a completed castle fort gives her a place where her ideas go to die — she has little choice but to use it as is. However, if you give her a set of building blocks, she can create any number of new and unique structures.

Cake Split divides a challenge into separate blocks, which you can reassemble in different ways to create any number of alternative ideas.

  1. State the essence of your challenge in two words. For instance, if your challenge is “In what ways might I improve my sales of light therapy devices?” the two-word phrase that captures the essence of your challenge is: “Selling devices.” In the example that follows, the challenge is “In what ways might we improve the methodology of picking strawberries?”; the two-word phrase is “strawberry picking.”
  2. Split the challenge into two separate units. In the last example, note how “strawberry” and “picking” are handled.
  3. Split each attribute into two more attributes. For instance, “strawberry” is split into “delicate” and “small,” “picking” is split into “remove” and “transport.
  4. Do not worry about the correctness of the split; everybody will split in different ways. When I see an Asian woman, I see beauty while others see beauty in a redhead woman. You have to define attributes for yourself, taking your clues where you find them.
  5. Continue splitting the attributes until you feel that you have enough to work with. In the strawberry example, I split “delicate” into “damaged” and “blemished,” “small” into “portable” and “comfortable” “remove” into “touch and hold” and “picking,” and “transport” into “ground” and “boxes.”
  6. Examine each attribute for ideas. This method wonders that big ideas can dwell in the most insignificant attribute, just as the flavor of an entire ocean is contained in one drop.
  7. Try reassembling the attributes. New combinations can induce new perspectives and new ideas. Splitting a challenge into several attributes is like removing a dividing panel from between chambers of sweltering and very cold air: New forces rush together, creating new ideas.

You could focus on just one attribute, such as “delicate,” and decide to create a new type of strawberry with stronger skin, to better withstand human handling.

The separated attributes encourage rearranging information, provoking you to search out new ways of doing things. It does not matter how many of the attributes you use or how you link them when generating ideas. It’s just a way to add a few more ball bearings to your imagination.