• to promote creativity

  • to explore the process of new product development

  • to practice group problem solving


  • large stainless steel spoons (1 per group)

  • modeling clay (a plum-sized lump per group)

  • copies of “Brilliant Idea!” handout (1 per participant)


90-120 minutes


  1. Do something at the start of class to help participants break out of their usual patterns of thought and behavior. Some possibilities are to stand at the back of the room as you open class, to ask everyone to sit in a different chair than they usually do, to remove the chairs entirely, or to rearrange the furniture. Use your imagination.

  2. Next, give the following “test” to help participants think in new ways. Ask for at least 5 written responses to each:

What do the Washington monument and a taxi have in common?

What do a tree and a river have in common?

What do a rock and a dream have in common?

  1. After the “test,” ask them to share and discuss their answers.

  2. Next, hold up a spoon and explain that they will be working to see this familiar object in new ways and to create a new and improved product. They will need to use the sort of creative thinking that they did to answer the “test” questions.

  3. Give a “Brilliant Idea!” handout to each person, and lead the class in a discussion of the questions, using the spoon as the product. Encourage participants to “think outside the lines.”

  4. If you’re concerned that participants are not considering enough unusual or off-the-wall ideas, you might prompt them further with questions like:

· Would a spoon work in the weightless environment of space?

· Could you design a spoon that would allow you to eat hot soup while driving a car?

· Could a spoon be redesigned to perform other tasks, such as taking the user’s temperature or checking for tooth decay?

Do what you can to encourage thinking that pushes the usual boundaries.

  1. After brainstorming with the “Brilliant Idea!” questions, divide the class into groups of 3-5 people. Give each group a spoon and a lump of modeling clay. Be sure they have paper and pencil available, too.

  2. Explain that the groups’ task is to design a new product—a new spoon—using the ideas and lessons they gathered from the preceding discussion. Every group should select a representative to present the final product to the class. Allow groups about 20 minutes to create their new product (a tight time limit enhances creativity).

  3. After the allotted time, call on groups to present their new product.


After the presentations, facilitate a discussion based on questions such as:

· Describe the process your group went through to create your new spoon.

· How did you decide on the main idea? What about the details?

· What other processes are similar to this one? What did this remind you of?

· How could entrepreneurs use this process (even if they aren’t creating a new product)?

· How could you apply this process in your business?

JOURNAL: Select a product (it may be as simple as a hammer or as complex as a vehicle; it’s best if it relates to your business) and apply the same creative process to it to create a new and/or improved product. Be prepared to present your new product to the class.


  • Creativity is a skill and a process that should be developed and encouraged throughout the course.

  • This activity is suggested for use in Unit II in the Teaching Guide with product development, but may also be helpful to participants in Unit IV (REAL II) in the Teaching Guide who is currently operating a business to help them see opportunities for growth and development.

  • Participants who are planning to build a business around a new product idea will need additional guidance on production and manufacture of the product.

  • You may wish to follow this exercise with information about the patent process and relevant laws.


Questions to Ask When Designing, Redesigning, or Improving a Product


· What is the product’s purpose?

· What else could it could be used for?

· What else does or could fulfill the same purpose?

· What substitutes exist for this product? How are they different?


· Who uses the product?

· Who does not or cannot use the product? Why?

· What other kinds of users are there? How are they different?

· Who could benefit from an adapted version of this product? What would the adaptation look like?


· Why is the product used?

· Why isn’t a different product used instead?


· When is the product used?

· When is it not used? Why?

· When else might the product be used?


· How is the product designed? Why?

· How could it be changed, adapted, or improved?


· Where is the product used?

· Where else could it be used?

· Where the product could not be used? Why?

· If it can’t be used somewhere, what could be used instead?

· If it can’t be used somewhere, how could it be changed to work there?


· What if the product didn’t exist?

· What if the product were bigger or smaller?

· What if the user of the product were bigger or smaller?

· What if you were physically unable to use the product?

· What if the materials used to make the product were not available?


· the way the product is used?

· the place the product is used?

· the time the product is used?

· the user of the product?

· the reason the product is used?

· the size or shape of the product?

· the material the product is made of?

· the function of the product?

· the design of the product?