Creative Techniques for Creative People - Laddering

What is the Laddering Creative Technique?

Laddering is a way of establishing a framework from which points-of-departure for a creative work can be written.

Points-of-departure for new material are established by reacting specific ideas and general ideas.

Laddering takes an initial (specific) idea, and then forms ladders of connections (general ideas) that lead off into different aspects of the specific idea.

The idea ladders are connected to and climb out of the defined specific idea starting points.  This differs from the Chains Technique used in Just Write where chains of connected ideas can take the creative theme in totally unrelated directions.

The ideas ladders build a frame that your creative work could cover – built from the starting point of the specific ideas.

How does Laddering work?

In Laddering subject ladders are placed against a chosen subject matter – i.e. the ladders-of-ideas connected by a common theme are placed against the specific idea(s) you choose to start from. These ladders are made up of a line of rungs – where each rung is a connected idea – and where each rung represents a progression along a chosen theme.

The specific idea is expressed as a word or descriptive phrase which embodies the item, subject or theme which you choose to explore.

The end result is a framework of themes, concepts and ideas that ladder out from the specific idea starting point. This framework furnishes the basic structure of a theme, sketch, paragraph (etc): effectively a building block of a creative work.

Demonstration: Laddering

The following is a simple illustration of Laddering.

The Specific Ideas

In this Illustration of the laddering technique the specific idea is outlined by the following sentences:  

Subject Matter: The Workington Craft Beer Association.

Phrases defining the specific idea: –

  • The complex mix of ingredients and processes that lead to the winning position in the world of craft beer.
  • Success in Craft Beer Brewing follows from years of small innovations in critical elements of the process.
  • The Craft Beer Society wants its members to be like the best of their beers, with hidden depths of course, but also with an amber clarity.

The General Ideas

Creative Thinking Technique: Laddering

The following theme-ladders are now created.  The rungs of the ladders lead out from the above specific idea(s).  The climbing idea rungs define the area that the creative work will cover – with the bottom rungs obtained from the specific ideas.

Derived Themes

The following points-of-departure are derived through brainstorming the themes contained in the above ladders.

These statements provide a rough outline structure from which a creative text can be developed.

  • This corner of the world was the last bastion of beer made with the floral garnish method.
  • The craft beers they had produced for a hundred years no longer held their own against competition.
  • Sent shock waves throughout the craft beer producers.
  • Workington – with its back to the sea – was never designed to protect itself from a threat from that direction.
  • When authority is sure, hesitation is seen as a disruptive action.
  • When authority is stuck, then the usual death ears suddenly become all ears.
  • A beer researcher obsessed with the possibilities behind the brewing of beer.
  • At times of great uncertainty the solution is to turn to the uncertain.
  • It is wise when handling alcohol to know your limits.
  • The thin line between courageous action in the face of a determined adversary, and a mistake.

Possible Development

Craft Beers – a short text from the Applied Glanside section of the website – illustrates how these themes, derived from the Laddering Technique, could be further developed into a creative text.  

Essential Glanside

A detailed process to manage the use of Creative Techniques for the development of original artwork and written work is set out in the section Essential Glanside.