Imagine you are using a camera to film everything you see. You later watch the movie, ensuring the whole picture is recorded just as it was. But could you have missed something or looked at the objects from the perspective you always do? Your mental pathways are like bus drivers. They direct you toward a specified location, and if you board one, it will unquestionably stay on track and take you to the terminal the way it always does. How do we zoom out to get a broader view but save our brain from cognitive overload?
First, "being in our lens" is how most experience life and approach problem analyses. Psychologists call it confirmation bias, which is the tendency to seek, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms one's pre-existing beliefs or expectations. Add spices like fear of uncertainty and limited time or other resources, and you get your brain's recipe of automatic reactions and answers to get the fastest solution, save energy, and ensure your survival.
Whether you are stuck in your tunnel vision or lost in a panoramic foggy view, there are creative technics that help you collect each point and have the puzzle solved. But before, let's make a quick warm-up for our mental muscles and define the roots of any complex problem-analyzing process.
Shake your brain
Look at the picture and describe what you see.
Most likely, you will see a young lady looking away. But what if we step further? What if you look at some parts like the chin and necklace and try to see something different from what they appear at first glance? If you play with the perspective, you will notice a profile of an older woman with a young lady's chin as her nose and necklace as her mouth. From the example above, we may conclude that it is essential to ask new questions to shake your initial hypothesis and get a wider perspective.
So how do we do that? That's where creativity can help us make the big break. Tar Sahno described it in his book as "the ability and willingness to give birth to the fundamentally new, unusual, non-standard things, going beyond the usual idea." It's time to arm yourself with "ZoomOut -ZoomIn" creative techniques to validate all the aspects of your issue and set the right goal for your problem-solving journey.
Are you looking for a new business idea? Or need to increase sales? Or want to change how the business operates entirely? Or search for a new way how to attract new employers? The level of the problem your solution can solve will impact how valuable it is to the business. You can alter the scope of a trial by expanding the statement. It can help to consider a more all-around landscape of factors.
How do we get to the highest skyscraper to see all the possible approaches instead of staring at a single building from beneath? The fundamental strategy is to ask "Why" as often as needed to help identify why you need the problem solved.
This "tell-me-why" path will most likely lead you to some emotional goals like making the company successful or gaining personal wealth. Whatever your final destination is, keeping your ground motivation in mind may help you see more alternative ways to reach it and save you from getting stuck on the trodden path.
When Netflix started, they were primarily a DVD-by-mail rental service. But they shifted their focus towards streaming and original content production, which has now made them one of the most successful streaming services in the world.
The same story with Apple. Rather than trying to compete on specs and price, they focused on user experience and design. By creating products that were functional, aesthetically pleasing, and intuitive to use, they were able to develop a loyal following and disrupt the industry.
When Tesla entered the automotive market, it faced numerous challenges, such as high costs and limited charging infrastructure. However, they looked at the problem from a different angle and focused on creating a luxury electric vehicle that was not only environmentally friendly but also technologically advanced.
The same problem shift made a significant impact on the freight industry. Experts predicted the decrease of the oceangoing freighter in the 1950s. Prices were going up, and delivery times were getting longer and longer. After the problem challenge transformed from "improving ship efficiency at sea while traveling between ports" to "in what ways can the whole industry save costs," consultants could evaluate all aspects of shipping, like loading and stowing. The weakness was that goods were accumulated at the docks waiting to be loaded, and theft increased. The solution was the roll-on, roll-off ship, and widespread containerization, which allowed loading before the vessel arrived at the port.
Let's move to the second method to understand how companies could develop these ideas.
Suppose you have outlined your alfa objective and deep motivation beyond it. But how do we see the details and alternatives we should focus on?
Look at the picture to see which square is more expansive. Most respondents will choose the second one, while these squares are equal. The same trick happens to the landscape of our problem - it gets stretched when we break it into puzzle pieces. By the way, we might thank Descartes and Scientific Method for suggesting breaking the problem into smaller parts from complex to simple. Doing so lets you explore different perspectives individually, stimulating your creativity and leading to new insights and solutions.
You can combine it with the Maslow pyramid to adhere components to different levels and nourish your multi-tier attribute tree. It can help you create a list of features to set priorities and define possibilities for each branch.
If you need help with a creative solution for a consumer concept, here are some guidelines for adopting it.
Physiology: your product's main functions and attributes (color, materials, taste, texture, etc.), the usability of web interfaces, price, marketing, audience, geographical reach, and company resources.
Safety: your business policies, any guarantees you provide regarding product or service usage, the security of payments and interfaces, customer experience, and satisfaction practices.
Love and Belongingness: all the community and social-media techniques, design and visual appeal, all growth-hacking technics that encourage word of mouth, emotional brand anchors, politics and taboos, company's global responsibility.
Self-Esteem: all luxury attributes, customer rewards, and public "applauses" your customers achieve while interacting with your brand.
Self-Actualization: social and environmental impact, the niches your proposal targets best to make your customer feel you are of the same blood.
Start playing with subtasks.
As soon as you are done cutting your problem into pieces, it's time to ask the central question: "In what ways could the attribute be changed or adopted to resolve the issue?" It's essential to inspire your mind to look for different solutions instead of stopping at the first one popping into the head.
To understand how this works, look at the picture and answer what common crises all these products had in the past.
The answer is that they all failed on the market on their launch and gained traction when they were used differently.
Play-Doh was created as a wallpaper cleaner.
Post-it notes were initially developed as a strong adhesive meant to be used in aerospace applications. However, it was not strong enough for that use.
Viagra was meant to be a medication to treat hypertension and angina pectoris.
Microwave ovens were introduced to improve radar technology during World War II.
Bubble wrap was created as a textured wallpaper.
By asking, "Why do we need to sell more?" the companies' leaders could conclude that the main point is to make the company profitable instead of concentrating on reviving the product that does not fit the market. Considering all their resources, they could think about "in what ways" to use them most efficiently and re-introduce them as precious innovations.
Many other creative technics can help you re-evaluate and play mind games with the challenges and multiply the number of appropriate solutions to the problem you are stuck on. Ask who, what, where, when, why, and how to squeeze a subtask and determine its strengths, weaknesses, and boundaries. You can read about Reverse Method in our previous article. Or try the synonym association game. These and other technics will be covered in the following articles.
We tend to ignore anything that doesn't fit our ideas. It makes it hard to see the bigger picture and consider other points of view. Train your creative and critical mindset to allow your mind to generate outstanding concepts and new solutions. Thanks to the panoramic view and detailed problem analyses, you can be sure all aspects are taken into account, and you are doing the right things instead of doing the wrong things right.
4. Thinkertoys. A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques. Michael Michalko