August 28,2019 Facilitating Innovation

Scaffolding Ideas

Scaffolding Ideas


Mankind has always been made to explore. This travel began with walking and transitioned to riding horses and camels. That shifted to using stagecoaches and the eventual automobile. Now man travels in airplanes and a select few in Space shuttles. All of these evolutions were based on travel and all were built upon each other in a scaffolding manner. In 1996 General Motors went live with their first electric car, the EV-1 car. In total less than a thousand cars were made. Later the EV series was discontinued after three-years believing that it wasn’t a feasible option for the market. Fifteen years later, however, Chevrolet used the original insights from the EV series to enhance the technology and build the Chevy Volt (Edwards, 2019). The Chevy Volt experienced revenues over a half-billion per year and it was recently announced the GM will be scaffolding on the success of the Volt to build a new electric SUV.

While biosociation combines creative insights from two separate ideas, scaffolding builds off one another. An object gives a mental reference for the mind to build upon. Creating from scratch is extremely difficult. To add on or edit an old idea provides needed context and stimuli which helps the flow of ideas.

This object or concept acts as an external stimulus to the team to generate new upon the old. While it gives the inventor context and purpose, the stimuli trigger greater imagination. This helps boost idea performance by simply reframing old concepts.


The process of scaffolding adds multiple perspectives into an original concept. The team atmosphere can aid in the idea generation process as each comment can spark additional insights from other team members. This team stimuli of brewing ideas together not only have the potential of creating more ideas but reshaping existing ones.

Scaffolding also enables a second innovation upon the first innovation. Experience with the original process, product, or concept helps provide a context to identify incremental innovations on top of the original. This process can even assist in the redesign of the original product by reframing the idea in a new paradigm which can break a team out of a creative rut.

With the potential to open team dialogue, scaffolding can help trigger insights which help people conceptualize the idea more fluidly. This enhanced conceptualization helps people express their thoughts as they understand it more clearly. If individuals are comfortable with expressing their ideas, this will result in the generation of more ideas.

 Practical Applications

  • Have a warm-up scaffolding activity. Before kicking off the brainstorming session, call out a random object and go around the participants to add to the object and how to improve it.
  • Give the team a baseline to start with. This will align the team on purpose as well as unlock new insights.
  • Facilitate with everyone participating to ensure that everyone scaffolds their thoughts upon the original idea.


In 1955 Frito-Lay founder Elmer Doolin convinced Walt Disney to let him open Case de Fritos. It was a Mexican restaurant in Frontierland that was of the TexMex variety which served tamales, enchiladas, and the American taco. It was a highly successful move capitalizing on tourists from the Midwest who had never had Mexican food before and raved about it (Arellano, 2012).

A few years into the operation one of the Frito-Lay traveling salesman saw a pile of the discarded tortillas that weren’t used. The salesman knew of the popular snack, totopo, in Mexico which consisted of the fried tortillas. He then asked for the staff to fry them and to add flavoring instead of wasting them (Frank, 2017).

The “little bits of gold” or Doritos popularity soared. It quickly became a mass-produced food and grew to over a billion a year in sales (Consumerist, 2014). The act of seeing waste and rethinking what to do with it models the art of reimagining usefulness. By adding the twist of flavor to a fried tortilla to turn the totopo into a Dorito is scaffolding at its finest.


Arellano, G. (2012, April 5). HOW DORITOS WERE BORN AT DISNEYLAND. Retrieved from OC Weekly:

Consumerist. (2014, January 31). Doritos Means “Little Golden Things,” And They Were Invented At Disneyland. Retrieved from

Edwards, O. (2019, August 26). The Death of the EV-1. Retrieved from

Frank, J. (2017, January 28). Doritos were originally Disneyland trash. Retrieved from Business Insider:

Watson, M. (2018). Common Strategies and Practices Among Facilitators of Innovative Thinking in Organizations. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest.

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