A tool to come up with CRAZY ideas for Persuasive Technologies

Ideas are free!
Ideas are free!

Persuasive technologies are primarily focused on achieving behavioral change on a personal or social level. Example: Websites to help people quit smoking, Apps for weight loss, wearables  to track activities like running, walking, sleeping, etc. As a designer of such technologies its easy to narrow down your focus of solving the problem and start with pre-cooked notions and ideas. Example: Instantly thinking of creating an App when solving the problem of obesity among young children. Not that the idea is bad but jumping to conclusions in terms of technology, approach or delivery medium can limit a designer from coming up with ingenious solutions. The problem in hand can also be tackled through social media, social support groups, websites, wearables or even kitchen utensils! Hence it’s important to considers a bunch of ideas before settling on one, which, in the end might be the obvious one.

But it can be tough to come up with unique ideas. After all, all ideas we can generate are limited by our thoughts and experiences. How then, can we create these ingenious, whacky, crazy, or even insane ideas? One solution is to use external tools, let the tools create random combinations for you and then try to make sense out of these random combinations. This might be a little confusing, so let me jump straight to the ideation tool and then come back to this discussion.

Persuasive Tech Ideation Tool
Inspired by Oinas-Kukkonen et al. (2008) & Prof. Ralph Vacca Class Slides

The way to use the tool is to create a random combination of items from the three sections and try to explain what that combination of technology will do. So for example if the random combinations comes out to be ‘Guide through Process’ + ‘Reminders’ + ‘Competition’ and the problem is Obesity in underprivileged middle-school students in New York City then the resulting solution can be ‘A social campaign that informs (Guide through process) students of healthy eating habits through monthly school visits(Reminders) and ranks the students (competition) based on their progress level’.

Final Note: Not all ideas that come out of the tool will make sense, but it will help you come up with unique ideas by constraining your thoughts! A fun exercise would be to add another layer of ‘Technology’ to the tool and constraining you even more, this might or might not help depending on the problem in hand.


Oinas-Kukkonen, H., Hasle, P., Harjumaa, M., Segerståhl, K., & Øhrstrøm, P. (2008). A Systematic Framework for Designing and Evaluating Persuasive Systems. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 164–176. http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-68504-3_15

Vacca, R. (2015). Class Slides. Interaction Design for Learning. New York University

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