Tag: problem

Does It Have To Be Like This?

Alternative thinkingDoes It Have To Be Like This?

Let’s face it. There is a lot going on right now both here in the UK and in the wider world. It would be very easy to be dissatisfied with everything and say that the Government, Rescue Services etc could be doing better. Why is our internet not faster, why is there not a bus when I want one?

There might be things wrong with these aspects of life but why are things as they are, and could things be improved? The snow got me thinking this morning. How do people drive long distances to get medical help in very snowy places? The answer is, they often don’t. The key word here is drive.

The issue is getting medical attention. If we focus on driving then we come up with suggestions like 4 wheel drive ambulances which would be very expensive when you have a system such as we do in the UK.

If you are setting up a system from scratch then why drive long distances to a patient and then a long distance to a hospital. We could have some 4 wheel drive vehicles together with emergency/trauma doctors that are based nearer to patients and could get there quicker to stabilise a seriously ill patient. What if they need to get to a hospital? Well, let’s have more air ambulances and less road based ones.

You can see where this is going! Focus on the problem and find a good solution, don’t simply take what is there and fudge it. This might work for a while but is not likely to work for the remainder of our lifetime.

As well as applying this type of thinking to social issues we can also use a different approach to many business issues. A good example of this is the use of telephones in Africa. Many countries did not have a large number of telephones because of the cost and the need for wires and telegraph poles.

But much of Africa is flat and the signal from a mobile phone mast can travel a long way. If the cost structure is right then mobile phones become affordable even in the most remote of communities. Charging is also simple due to solar power.

Imagine if this had been a business. Your helpful business adviser could have suggested that you wait for the cost of installing telephone lines to fall and then install a system at that point. But your competitors have gone mobile (high speed, data, the whole shebang), they have leapfrogged you, left you behind.

So have a think about what your issues really are and if there are better ways to solve them. Look for the difference that makes the difference.

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Creativity – It’s All About Perspective

As Albert Einstein noted, a problem cannot be solved within the same frame of reference in which it was created. This does not mean that we have to employ Einstein’s methods and shift ourselves into outer space or become time travellers, it simply means that our problem must be reframed or looked at in a new way. You can get someone else to look at your problem or just change your own perspective.

My good friend Gerardo Porras, based in Mexico, created a very useful metaphor for this very situation. We are inside our house looking out and what we see is governed by the shape of the window and the colour of the glass. To add to this metaphor, our view through the window is also governed by the laws of physics, we can only see what is in our line of sight so to look in a different direction we must choose a new window.

We could, of course, leave our ‘house’ and take in all of the scenery by turning around and looking in every direction. If we were exploring then that is exactly what we would do, but within organisations we need to make decisions and too much information can make those decisions difficult to take. So whilst we might need to change the way we look at a problem in an organisation, generating too many options or business ideas may be unhelpful.

So how can we change our perspective in a simple way? There are many creative techniques that you can use, many of which are known by different names but you can use the some of the approaches below:

  • Random stimulation – introduce a random or bizarre objector thought which will give your brain a shock (what happens if I paint it yellow?)
  • Experience the problem – create a model and walk around inside it
  • Look at the problem boundaries and then change them or blur them
  • Increase or decrease the amount of knowledge available – introduce your problem to older people or even children

Once you get the idea, you can soon work out your own ways to change your perspective.

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What makes a good idea?

Well, first of all, it is a good, no really great, idea to have a good idea! Sounds silly but many ideas are just that. I could have a really great idea about growing bananas underwater but something tells me that I would be wasting my time. When the go/no-go decision is a little less obvious we must be a little more logical about testing for a good idea.

Here are ten suggestions as to how to test your idea:

  1. What problem (or business pain) is your idea targeted at?
  2. Is your idea well formed or do you have more work to do?
  3. Do you understand why your idea will appeal to potential customers?
  4. When you tell people about your idea do they get it immediately?
  5. Do you have a prototype or have you conducted a trial? Have you received positive feedback?
  6. Have you costed your idea, what will you sell it for?
  7. How will you make your product or deliver your service?
  8. Do you have the necessary skills and resources or will you buy them (where from)?
  9. Have you checked that nobody has done this before?
  10. Do you wish to retain ownership of your idea?

You may well have further tests in an organisation specific context e.g. does this fit with strategy or existing products but these are a good starting point. It is always best to test your ideas to avoid wasting time in a commercial environment. If not you may simply be playing.

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What is it that you are not seeing?

Many of you will be familiar with Scott Adams’ naive and downtrodden cartoon character Dilbert who sits in a small cubicle all day working for a tyrannical boss. If you have not seen Dilbert before then take a look at www.dilbert.com. On last year’s calendar there was a scene where Dilbert and Dogbert were looking out over a panoramic scene. Dilbert said “wow look at that!” and Dogbert’s reply was “look at what?”.

There are times when we look at an issue with our colleagues and wonder why they cannot see the same things that we do. Have you ever been house hunting with someone who raves about the kitchen whilst you rave about the workshop or games room? This is much the same thing, we can all look at the same thing and see different facets or sometimes, like Dogbert, nothing at all.

Albert Einstein remarked that we are unable to solve problems in the same frame of reference in which they were created. So, to solve problems or make headway in a difficult business situation we need to re frame or change the way we look at things. These need not be dramatic changes. For instance:

  • This piece will not fit – try turning it through 90 degrees or maybe upside down
  • My customers are not buying the things I make – ask the question ‘Am I making the things that my customers want?’
  • Traffic lights – are they designed to stop accidents or manage traffic flow
  • I want to write upside down – do I need to design a pressurised pen or will a pencil do?

So try changing the way you look at the world and marvel at the increased opportunities.

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