# Alternative Uses Tests

The Alternative Uses Test (AUT) is a standard measure of divergent thinking.

It’s also massively underused in the classroom as a way to spark creativity which given we live in an ideas economy is surprising.

AUT is a challenge where you have to come up with non-traditional and non-obvious uses for an ordinary item like a straw, a pin pong ball, a newspaper or a brick. It’s a sort of entrepreneurial ideation.

A typical question is something like “Write down as many uses as you can think of for a paper clip. You have two minutes.”

Responses might include:

- Unclog a salt pot
- Emergency hairclip
- Cufflinks
- Earrings
- Meat skewer
- Imitation mini-trombone
- Clean your nails
- Money clip
- Guitar pick
- Reset gagdets, e.g. phone, router etc
- Keeping headphones from getting tangled up
- To pick locks
- Make mini-coat hangers
- Bookmark
- DIY key-ring
- Aerial/Antenna
- Remove a cherry pit
- Blow dart needle
- A smartphone stand
- Compass
- Finer/toe splint
- Fish hook
- Toothpick

You can extend this question by mot limiting it to one paper clips but a box of paper clips. e.g. make alphabet letters, make a necklace, ladder, chandelier etc.

Image: mosaicworks.ca

Kudrowitz anc Dippo (2013) asked 293 participants, including engineers, designers and students to list alternative uses for a paperclip in three minutes. They note,

Using infrequency of responses as a measure of originality, it was found that participants that produced more responses had more original responses. Later responses were significantly more original than early responses and originality of responses increased with quantity. On average, a participant would list 9 responses before arriving at highly original responses.

Developed by J.P. Guilford in 1967, the AUT test our originality, our fluency (how many we can think of), flexibility (how many different categories) and elaboration (how much detail we can give in relation to each one). Try these out for yourself and get children to think of:

- How many uses can you think of for a jam jar lid?
- How many uses can you think of for a bulldog clip?
- How many uses can you think of for a spoon?
- How many uses can you think of for a car tyre?
- How many uses can you think of for a computer mouse?
- How many uses can you think of for a shoe?
- How many uses can you think of for a button?
- How many uses can you think of for a matchbox?
- How many uses can you think of for a protractor?
- How many uses can you think of for a peg?
- How many uses can you think of for a fork?
- How many uses can you think of for a tennis ball?
- How many uses can you think of for a saucepan?
- How many uses can you think of for an elastic band?
- How many uses can you think of for a paper towel?
- How many uses can you think of for a key?
- How many uses can you think of for a ladder?
- How many uses can you think of for a plank of wood?