Challenge a team to distill a problem to the core issue and use creativity to find new ways of looking at the core issue for problem solving.
Use it as a way of stimulating further idea creation when ideas start to flag.
Identify the essence of the problem
Take the problem and chunk up, asking questions like 'What is the heart of this situation? What is it all about? What it it's essential qualities? What is it's core of being?'
In this way, seek to find the essence of what you are seeking.
Write it down as simply as possible. One word is good.
Find situations with a similar essence
Now look for a situation where the essence also appears. This can be analogous in some way or something completely different. How well the essence fits into this situation is less important than finding a useful domain.
Explore ideas in this different domain
Now get creative in this different essential domain. Imagine a similar problem in this area. How might it be solved in this different environment? What ideas can you find here?
Bring back ideas to the target problem
Now bring back the ideas that you found in the similar domain into the actual problem domain to find how they can be applied. Ask 'How can I use these other ideas back here?'
Usual or Expected Outcomes: Essence works by forcing the thinkers out of their current thinking ruts and into a parallel domain where more ideas can be found. Rather than a random element, the thinking is kept more relevant by keeping the essential quality of the problem.
Examples of successes and failures: I am looking for an idea to make airport lounges more interesting.
I identify the essence as 'waiting'.
A similar situation is a doctor's waiting room.
In the doctor's waiting room there are many things to read, a TV, an electronic display of how long you have to wait.
So put more things to read. Perhaps on the wall. Let people buy things or hire them very cheaply. Have displays that count down the time to boarding, etc.
Another more creative link is a similar situation of a loading dock in a factory, where parcels are waiting to be delivered.
Parcels are stacked up. They have labels on. They are moved out in order.
What if you had a seat which moved towards the plane by itself? What if you could see the plane being prepared?