Fractionation



Existing ideas and patterns of thought can make it very difficult to think of new ideas and approaches. Fractionation is a technique developed by Edward de Bono to break up an existing idea or pattern into parts so that the parts can be rearranged and spark new ideas and approaches. For example if the subject is the design of an apple picking machine. 
  • Then the fractions could be:
    • reaching
    • finding
    • picking
    • transporting to the ground undamaged apples
  • The fractions can then be reassembled:
    • Reaching-finding-picking (then substitute shaking the tree for all three)
    • Reaching-undamaged apples-transport to the ground (then come up with elevated canvas platform which could be raised towards the apples)
  • Other fractions might be:
    • contribution of tree to apple picking
    • contribution of apples
    • contribution of machine
  • Reassembling these could lead to the idea of growing a tree in a special way that would make it easier to pick apples.


Practice
  • Suggested subjects:
    • Unloading ships in a harbour
    • Restaurant meals
    • Catching and marketing of fish
    • Organization of a football league
    • Building a bridge
    • Newspapers
  • Collect separate fractionation lists from the students
  • If there is time analyse the results in terms of the most popular fractions
  • Read out the lists and comment upon the most ingenious
  • The purpose is to show the variety or uniformity of the aproach
  • Reassembly:
    • From the fractionation lists extract small groups of two or three fractions.
    • The Students are then asked to put them together again to create a new approach to the situation
  • Picking out fractions
    • Students are asked in turn to suggest a fraction until there are no new fractions (overlap does not matter - ask for the participant to explain the difference)
  • Working backwards
    • This is really a game but gets people thinking.
    • Take a group of fractions created by a different group. Ask the current group to guess what the subject was. (obvious references to the subject are deleted and replaced with a blank)
  • Two unit division
    • Each participant is asked to divide the subject into 2 fractions.
    • The end results are then compared
    • You are looking for a variety and new approaches
  • Sequential two unit division
    • A subject is given and one participant is asked to divide it into two units
    • Then another participant is asked to divide one of the units into a further 2 fractions
    • The purpose is to show that it is always possible to divide the unit.