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Creativity Exercise: Expand and Shrink

Creativity Exercise: Expand and Shrink
Exercises, Team Building, Decision Making, Brainstorming, Design

Article Rating:::: 33 Ratings :::: Monday, November 2, 2009


When engaged in a brainstorming session on productivity, you want to maximise your search efficiency in order to systematically explore all areas and get the best from the time spend on the problem. A great way to do this is to expand and shrink the problem so you can come up with new ideas, get rid of the bad ideas and move forward.

Effectively, you can use the following 5 techniques:

  • Expand. Expand the problem by thinking of new associations on all directions.
  • Reduce. Reduce the scope.
  • Reverse. Come up with something opposite to explore new avenues.
  • Eliminate. Remove those ideas that don’t make any sense to reduce your search space and increase the efficiency of your brainstorming. After all, you can’t spend forever on this topic so you need to setup boundaries.

The following exercise helps the delegates to use this method.

For ready-made training content on this and further exercises, consider Creativity and Innovation Training Materials.


Use Expand, Reduce, Reverse and Eliminate on a problem to brainstorm it.

What You Need

  • A couple of flipcharts for each group.
  • Coloured pens.


  • Divide the delegates into groups of 4 or 5.
  • Ask them to consider a problem. If they are from the same organisation, it is better to select something relevant to their work.
  • You have two options:
  • A. If you have trained the delegates about mind maps, ask them to carry out this exercise using a mind map approach. Indeed, this is the preferred option. Ask them to write the problem at the centre of the screen. Add 4 main branches to this title as Expand, Reduce, Reverse, and Eliminate
  • B. If they don’t know about mind maps, ask them to write the problem at the top of the flipchart and then draw 3 lines to form 4 columns. Title the columns as Expand, Reduce, Reverse, and Eliminate
  • To better clarify what is required, you can show delegates the example provided below.
  • Allocate 15 minutes for groups to brainstorm the topic and write their ideas on their flipcharts.
  • Ask everyone to get back together and ask each group to present their problem and their solutions. Ask other group to comment on their work.
  • Follow with a discussion.


Explaining the Test: 5 minutes.

Activity: 15 minutes

Group Feedback: 10 minutes.


How effective was this method in coming up with creative ideas? Did you come up with some innovative and practical ideas?



Brainstorming subject: The future of mobile phones



  • Does everything a PC does
  • Knows where I am and where everything is
  • Get to see more of the world than normal because of the layers
  • Can borrow books from library and read them on it
  • Can use it to pay instead of using credit cards
  • Can connect a desire to purchase something I recorded in my task list to the availability of that content as I pass a store.
  • Can use as a substitute laptop to connect to projectors for presentations



  • Ultimate music player
  • Remote TV
  • Can mount it in the sole of my shoe and use peripherals to access functions
  • Can embed in my ring
  • Can embed entirely in my headset and use an active lens to view images
  • Image signals directly form in my head
  • Projector directly renders the image into my retina


  • Can pile up mobile phones to make a statue
  • Mobile phone replaces PCs as they are extensively configured, personalised and are with you at all times
  • Disposable mobile phones



  • Text messaging (Text messaging with flimsy keyboards in the world of 2050 does not make sense)
  • Purchased ringtones
  • Setting favourites manually (your phone should be able to tell you that)

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