Absence Thinking (From the MDCG tool box)

At any point in a creative-thinking situation, alone or in a group, new solutions emerge when those involved force themselves to think in an arbitrarily different way.

Absence Thinking: Think about what is not there. tool

When to use it
Use it when you are stuck and unable to shift thinking to other modes.
Use it when you want to do something that has not been done before.

How to use it
Think about what you are thinking about, and then think about what you are not thinking about.
When you are looking at something (or otherwise sensing), notice what is not there.
Watch people and notice what they do not do.
Make lists of things to remember that you normally forget.
In other words, deliberately and carefully think about what is absent.

Example
An artist draws the spaces between things.
A market manager for a furniture wonders about product areas where customers have made no comment. She watches them using tables and notes that they leave the tables out when not using them. She invents a table that can be easily be folded and stored.

How it works
The psychology of thought is such that we are very good at seeing what is there, but not at all good at seeing what is not there. Absence Thinking compensates for this by deliberately forcing us to do what we do not naturally do.

MDCG has a series of tools for creating ideas, by exploring different methods of thinking that will help those who use them produce surprising and useful results. I will be posting techniques, tools and methods from our series regularly here, so check back often!