Brainstorming Technique 3: Cherry Split

The Cherry Split is our third brainstorming secret, and this technique is best used to solve problems, especially ones that you have attempted to solve before with no luck. Even though you might see some similarities between our last technique, “slice and dice” and this one, they are actually quite different.

The Cherry Split technique is based on the principle that all problems carry their solutions within themselves. This technique forces us to look inward, within the problem instead of outward. It is named so, because of the first illustration that was used to describe it and document this technique.

In the diagram A below, we see two circles within a square. On splitting the two circles (our cherry), we see a square form within a circle in diagram B. The thing is that the square actually doesn’t exist. It is not drawn. It is only implied by the splitting of the two circles and pulling them apart.


So how does cherry split work?

This tool divides and then sub-divides your problems into smaller parts that you can then jumble around to reveal the solution to your problem.
Similar to the slice and dice technique we use attributes in this technique as well. Once you have enough attributes you can mix and match them and see the magic happen right in front of your eyes.


Why does it work so well?

This technique works because it is extremely creative without putting much creative thought into it. So, if creativity is not your strong suit, then here is the perfect tool to get you started.


Steps to use this tool

The cherry split technique can be effectively employed by following a few easy steps. Let’s look at these steps with an example:

Step 1: State your problem

The first step to this technique is to state your problem or challenge. Now, the first rule is that it should use as little words as possible. We want to keep it as focused as possible. The second rule is that it should be focused on the result that you want, instead of blindly stating the problem. The third rule is that it should be phrased as a question.

Let’s say, for example, that our problem is that our employees, specifically the front-liners or workers, are consistently showing up to work late. You may have given warning letters, reprimanded them, but not seen any progress. So, our problem here is: “Employees are showing up to work late.” Our desired result is to have employees come to work on time.

So, our challenge statement could be, “How do we make sure employees come to work on time?”

Step 2: Choose your two halves of the cherry

The reason we keep our challenge question simple is that we want to pick only two key words from this statement to work with our cherry technique. In essence, we are using these two words as equal parts of a cherry that we have split.

In our example, our phrase could be “Employees, Time”.

You may feel like you could choose different key words. For example, we could also choose “work-employees” or “work-time”. For the sake of this example, let’s pick “Employees and Time”.

Step 3: Assign attributes

Now that we have our two halves of the cherry, we are going to assign attributes to it. Attributes could be anything. Do not be afraid to associate your words with whatever comes to your mind. For example, we chose the words “Employee” and “Time”.

We will now divide these words into two attributes like below:


You can choose any kind of attribute. It could be a description or meaning of the word. It could be reason, it could be a position, its appearance or just an idea.

Step 4: Assign Attributes to your attributes

We follow the exact same step as we did before, and this time we add attributes to our earlier words. So in this case we breakdown the words, management, worker, early and time into further attributes like below.


You can further divide your sub-attributes until you are satisfied with it. For this example, we have enough to work with.

Step 5: Look to your attributes for ideas

The best part of this exercise is that just by defining and refining the problem, we can see what issues may be causing this situation. From our example, it may seem that workers are not being managed properly which may mean that your management needs more training. We can shift responsibility and that might make the problem go away. Another factor could be that managers have their own cars and workers use public transport which might be making them late. So, maybe we could introduce a shuttle service or company transport. It may add to our cost, but may make up for it by having everyone start work on time. There are many options to be explored.

Step 6: Shift your attributes around to look for more creative solutions

If the answer is still unclear we can shift all our attributes around and mix and match them until something clever comes up.

In our example, we can match our workers with our starting time, and change our workers starting time by delaying it by a half hour. Maybe this way workers can bypass the heavy traffic times and show up to work on time.


Things to remember

Cherry split is one of those techniques that will yield very different results every time you use it. Even if were to do this exercise again with the same two words, we can assign different attributes to those words, and go in a completely different direction.

It will also differ greatly from person to person. No two people will ever have the same results. But that is the whole point to this technique, that it can open so many doors and examine the same problem from so many different aspects. And more often than not, you will find a solution to your problem just by defining the problem in great detail, as this technique allows you to.

We can even say that this tool is really the cherry on top of the cake, when it comes to problem-solving brainstorming techniques.