Using a Big Box Store to Generate Ideas

Are you hitting a dry spell in your ideation? Do you need to shake things up in your brain?

Please go to a big box store, walk around for two or three hours, and create a list of products on the shelf that interest you for some reason. The product may interest you because:

  • You think it is cool
  • You think it is a good idea
  • You would like to buy the product for yourself
  • You think someone you know would like it as a gift
  • It contains an interesting piece of technology
  • You like something about the packaging or the branding
  • You wish you had thought of it
  • You think lots of people would buy it
  • You cannot understand why anyone would buy it
  • You cannot see why the price makes sense (either too high or too low)
  • Etc.

So you are walking around the store, aisle by aisle, and you find a product you like. Please write it down. If you want to be detailed, write this down for each item that grabs your attention:

  • The name of the product
  • The product’s bar code number
  • The price
  • The reason why you like this product (in 2 or 3 sentences)

These are the kind of big box stores that would be appropriate for this exercise:

  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Lowe’s
  • Home Depot
  • Best Buy
  • Bed, Bath and Beyond
  • Dick’s
  • Costco
  • Bass Pro Shop
  • Ikea
  • Etc.

Does walking around looking at thousands of products prompt any new or derivative ideas for you? Often it will. You are mashing together lots of new thoughts, lots of divergent thoughts, and often your brain will see new things.

Maybe you see a product and think, “no one would buy that!” But if it is on the shelf in Walmart, it means you are wrong. It wouldn’t be there if no one would buy it. So you learn about a new audience you may have never thought about before.