Problem Solving Through Boundary Relaxation
In business we often seem to be constrained by all sorts of things from statutory rules (red tape), availability of resources and even our own thinking. Sometimes we just make things far too complex.
I remember a time when I was at school (quite a while ago now) when I often ended up in detention after school. Often we sat staring at the wall waiting for detention to end (and sometime I used to take sweets from the jar in the head mistress’ office (but thats another story). Sometime we would, however, be left in the care of a teacher who tried to be too clever. One day we were asked to write an essay. ‘Can I write about a red London Bus?’ I asked. My friend has already been primed to ask about writing an essay all about a green London Bus (you can almost see what is coming can’t you?). The teacher agreed.
My essay started a little like the following:
Once upon a time there was a red London Bus. The red London Bus had four wheels and an engine. Now this red London Bus with four wheels an engine and a poster on the side was travelling down the road ….
You can see how this would build into a story that would infuriate a teacher. Don’t forget there was a green version also!
A pair of infuriating schoolboys had simplified the rules surrounding essay writing for that particular occasion and we had written essays that conformed to the requirements. We had relaxed the boundaries and made life simple whilst the teacher had made some assumptions, he had not tested the ‘givens’, the rules that normally apply in these cases. He could (should) have given us a topic, made us create an essay plan and stipulated the length of the essay.
This was a little like a business transaction in which one side tries to test and possibly manipulate the apparent constraints upon them whilst the other party makes assumptions that are based on previous experiences.
So next time you have a tricky business issue to solve, try seeing if there is any ‘wriggle room’, any way that some of the boundaries can be stretched or even removed. It is often worthwhile trying a little boundary relaxation.