Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoon, recently had a brilliant article in the Wall Street Journal in which he explained how he sometimes jump starts his creative process by employing "the bad version." Here's how he explains the idea:
I spent some time working in the television industry, and I learned a technique that writers use. It’s called “the bad version.” When you feel that a plot solution exists, but you can’t yet imagine it, you describe instead a bad version that has no purpose other than stimulating the other writers to imagine a better version.
For example, if your character is stuck on an island, the bad version of his escape might involve monkeys crafting a helicopter out of palm fronds and coconuts. That story idea is obviously bad, but it might stimulate you to think in terms of other engineering solutions, or other monkey-related solutions. The first step in thinking of an idea that will work is to stop fixating on ideas that won’t. The bad version of an idea moves your mind to a new vantage point.
I like the idea because it is really just a different way of making the familiar strange; seeing that the opposite may also be true; embracing a different perspective; or turning a problem on its head. All, of course, are just different ways of unlearning.