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Many Uses of an Object

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This method is used to generate energy, creativity, and out of the box thinking, setting the stage for innovation at a later stage.


Many objects we encounter on a day to day basis have a ‘fixed’ meaning and purpose assigned to them. For instance, a chair is meant for sitting, a knife for cutting, a pen for writing, and so on. This preconceived meaning is useful in terms of the efficiency of our everyday cognition, but it can also prevent us from looking at things with an open mind. By explicitly directing people to relate to an object in unaccustomed ways, to rethink its meaning, value, and possible purpose, new opportunities and possibilities can arise. This method can be a good way to warm up people’s ‘creative muscles’ and support them in approaching more serious topics or design challenges in a creative way later on during a workshop.


  1. Start by asking each person to place their object in front of them. If one object is used for the whole group, place it in the middle so that everyone can see it;
  2. Using a blank sheet of paper, invite participants to write down as many alternative uses, purposes or meanings that can be attributed to the object in front of them. Ask them not to disregard any idea that pops up in their minds.
  3. After about 3-5 minutes, people finalise their ideas and share some of the wildest or most interesting ones with the group.

Place on U
3-5 minutes
Materials Needed
  • One or more objects: it is possible to use one object for the whole group or one object per person;
  • Paper and pen.
Disruptive Practices
Ideation & Brainstorming
Metaphorical Thinking
Online Engagement
Tip and Experiences
  • If participants picked an object in an earlier exercise, it can give a sense of continuity to let them use the same one here.
  • To encourage wild thinking in step 2, participants can use the “Yes, and...”

Relevant References & Resources

Lambert (2013). What Can You Do with a Brick

Video for inspiration: One Hundred Uses for a Chair

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