Home / Articles

Winter scene of haystacks: painting
2011 . July . 18
Sherwin Arnott

Generating ideas is a deeply important talent. Problems can be solved. Solutions get chosen from pools of ideas. Sometimes, all you have is one idea. And if it happens to be the perfect solution, then that’s great.

But most of the time, it’s a huge benefit to have a large pool of ideas to choose from. The process of brainstorming is so dear to our hearts, and so crucial to communication design, that we thought we would give an example of a list of brainstorms that we developed during a bluesky session around a classic problem.

Winter scene of haystacks: paintingThe problem is that a needle is lost in a haystack.

Here are some spitball ideas:

  1. Burn down the haystack
  2. Heat up the stack of hay, let it cool and use an infrared camera to track the heat of the needle
  3. Drop the haystack through an agitating grate or mesh
  4. Look for electromagnetic radiation that is unique to the needle
  5. Get bacteria to eat the hay
  6. Let the hay blow away in the wind
  7. Move one straw at a time, to a different pile
  8. Find out how the needle got in the haystack: track the route: was there a video?
  9. Find out how the needle got in the haystack: replicate the experiment with a new needle
  10. Use a really really strong magnet
  11. Dump the haystack in the water, and see what floats and what sinks
  12. Travel back in time to the moment before the needle fell in the haystack
  13. To heck with it; find an identical needle
  14. Ask Scotty to beam it up
  15. Pay the neighbourhood school children to remove the straw a strand at a time: a penny per strand means that 1000 strands is ten dollars

When we got here, we could have quit. But we didn’t let ourselves. Here’s five more:

  1. Wait five or ten years until only the needle remains
  2. Make the straw available for birds to use in their nests
  3. Divide the haystack into chunks (maybe 30 metric cubes) and commit to looking through a chunk per day
  4. Divide the haystack into chunks and find volunteers to take responsibility for each chunk
  5. Freeze the hay, and cause an earthquake that shatters the straw into tiny pieces of straw sand and sift it