50 – 30 – 10

This brainstorming activity starts with a big picture and narrows that focus.

Diana Lillicrap 5.06.2014


Sometimes to come up with new ideas you need to start with big picture concepts and then narrow your focus down to ground level applications. Here’s an exercise to help give structure to a process that embraces looking at a problem from the top down.


Start by listing a big goal or a pie-in-the-sky lofty idea at the top. Imagine you are trying to see your problem from 50,000 feet in the air. Once you’ve identified your big goal, break it down into three potential strategies that could address the goal. This is the 30,000-foot view. Then take each of those three items and break them down into specific tactics or actions that could be used to make the strategy real. This is the 10,000-foot level.

For example, if your goal is to improve your products so you can increase sales, at the 30,000-foot level, you may consider exploring new product innovation, a new product line or extension, or combining your products with a new service offering. At the 10,000-foot level you could break down product innovation into things like specific research you should collect, ways to improve materials or manufacturing processes in your plant, or a variety of other ways to bring innovation into your products.

Multiple applications

This technique can work for solving a problem, creative idea generation, or even planning content strategy for your marketing efforts. Just start with the big ideas at the top and work your way down to sub categories until you get to specific topics. And if you have something at the 10,000-foot level that is still too broad, go ahead and break it down again until you achieve specific ideas that are on the ground.

Once you’ve gone through this exercise, you’ll have dozens of ideas that are all within your reach.


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