How to Play the What-If Game
The game here is a creative problem solving and idea-creation
game. The version of it presented uses a list of words that can
modify an idea or a problem in your mind. While thinking of a
problem that needs to be solved or an object you want to use
in new ways, you ask, "What if it was..." and the you
insert a word from the list you have (there is an example below).
Looking around the room just now, I chose a door as a test
subject to demonstrate the process. I then asked "what if
it was... "
The first thing that came to mind was a wall that opens up
on nice days, allowing sun and air to flood in.
A smaller opening perhaps, like a mail slot but for packages
to pass through.
How about voice-activated doors for homes.
Place doors two meters above street level for security and
have mechanical lifts that are key-activated and raise you up
to the entrance.
It looks like a door, but is just a wall. This way you can
see visitors and decide whether to direct them to the real door,
wherever that is.
They may not be great ideas, but they came quickly and easily,
and that's the point of the what if game. It's fun and
it triggers so many ideas that you can usually find a few good
ones in the bunch.
The short list below will give you an idea of the kinds of
words to use (and you can use that list as it is). Generally
you want to use adjectives or descriptive phrases and words.
What if it was...
combined with something
much more common
much less common
When asking the questions, the "it" doesn't have
to be a thing, but can also be a process, a problem, or a solution
that exists right now. Let's assume a man wants to make more
money with his nightclub, so he pulls out the list and starts
asking "What if it was..."
"Bigger" doesn't trigger any new ideas, so he moves
"Tiny?" Well, he might break the club up into several
smaller rooms, each with their own music and theme.
"Sooner?" Open sooner and be the only place with
"Later?" Stay open all night by changing into a
breakfast restaurant once past the hour that drinks can't legally
"Easier?" Easier for the customers to get in? Drop
the cover charge for early arrivals to generate some new business.
"More difficult?" Maybe make it more exclusive,
with membership requirements, in order to change perceptions
and make it THE place to be seen.
Interestingly, the words that trigger the best ideas will
not always be obvious at first glance. In this case, for example,
the word "hopeless" might cause the owner of the nightclub
to recognize the demographic forces at work which point to a
continuing decline in the years to come. The best idea he has
might be to sell out and look for another business to start.
There is one more way to play the what if game. Get
out your list and choose a word first, then apply it to things.
The word "shorter," for example, would have you asking,
"What if it was shorter?" about everything. A car could
be parked more easily if it was shorter. A small book could be
carried in the pocket of your jeans. What if life was shorter?
What would you do differently? If the commute to work was shorter
you wouldn't need an automobile. Vacations might be more fun
if you had more of them by keeping them short. Short airport
runways? They would take less valuable space--maybe planes should
be redesigned to work on these.
You can do this as a mental exercise, to solve actual problems,
to have ideas for inventions and more. You can also play the
game with friends, to see who has the craziest--or the most viable--ideas.