“You are surrounded by simple, obvious solutions that can dramatically increase your income, power, influence and success. The problem is you just don’t see them.” - Jay Abraham
I think everyone will agree that life is full of mysteries. Is that what we should call them, “mysteries?” or are they just “creative puzzles that have yet to be solved?” Think about this and we’ll give you the answers at the end of this article…
Two fathers and two sons go fishing one Saturday morning. Each catches a fish that they all decide will be dinner back at the lodge. When they arrive back at their lodge, the cook asks how many fish he will be preparing that night and they respond, “Three!” If all the fish made it back from the lake to the lodge, how is this possible?
Or maybe you’ll do better with eggs instead of fish… There are three eggs in the basket. Three people each take one of the eggs. How is it possible that one egg is left in the basket?
These puzzles fall into a category called Lateral Thinking puzzles. The phrase lateral thinking was made popular by Edward de Bono, a psychologist, physician and writer. He first documented his thoughts on Lateral Thinking in his book titled The Use of Lateral Thinking, published in 1967. De Bono defines lateral thinking as “methods of thinking concerned with changing concepts and perception.”
By searching for solutions that are not immediately obvious or even possible through traditional means, you are practicing lateral thinking. The more cliché nomenclature used today is “thinking outside the box.”
“Removing the faults in a stage-coach may produce a perfect stage-coach, but it is unlikely to produce the first motor car.” - Edward de Bono
Practicing lateral thinking can be difficult since our brains can easily get stuck in a logic mode that only permits step-by-step solutions to surface. When discussing potential solutions, de Bono proposes that any “provocative operation” that serves as an idea towards a solution should be documented. These ideas may spawn even better ideas.
Brainstorming was first introduced in the book called Your Creative Power in 1948 by Alex Faickney Osborn, an advertising executive. Osborn noted that teams could produce more numerous ideas by utilizing this method. Brainstorming should be facilitated by documenting all ideas. Then the ideas will be categorized, reviewed and analyzed to further refine.
To assist with idea generation many types of tools are utilized in brainstorming sessions today. Keep in mind that for a brainstorming session to be productive, all members of the group must feel completely safe to add ideas to the conversation. Therefore, no criticism of any idea should be allowed. Participants should also be encouraged to feed off of other people’s ideas to twist, reshape or invert the idea into another potential solution.
Three of the tools that can be utilized in a brainstorming session include:
How many times have you heard the expression, “you’ve got to think outside the box?” The problem with that expression is that many of us don’t even know that we’re in a box. If you can reverse a situation where something that is true is now false, the walls of the box that surround us are more easily seen. Once they have been identified, it is much easier to get outside those barriers.
Start with a question that defines the most basic elements of the defined issue. Once the most basic elements have been defined, determine which elements would be the most thought provoking if they were not true. Then, reverse those elements to their opposites. Finally, ask the group how you could use that concept to solve the issue.
- Situation: Salespeople create quotations for the customers.
- Reversal: Salespeople don’t create quotations for the customers.
- Idea: Develop a web site that allows customers to create quotations.
- Idea: Have standard pricing so quotations are not necessary.
- Idea: Create a separate group to generate quotations.
Using the reversed situation tool you were able to break down the walls of the box. Using a forced analogy, you can transport yourself outside of the box. By selecting an analogous system and then forcing your brain to make a connection to the situation, you are forcing the creative side of your brain to create the bridge back into the box. Often times this forced analogy will stimulate your creativity to generate unexpected solutions.
First, select random items, objects, systems or pictures. Then, determine the fundamental elements that define that object. Once those elements have been defined, create an association back to the issue to be solved. Don’t forget to start the question as with brainstorming; “How might we…?’
- Issue to be solved: Acquire new customers to our customer base
- Object or System: paper clip
- Fundamental Element: temporarily connects items
- Idea: Bundle different products in the store every week and sell the bundle at a slight discount.
Point of View
Using an outrageous individual that is in no way connected to the issue at hand, this technique has you itemize their most popular attributes. Then, utilize their attributes to create a connection and potential solution to the issue to be solved. You can also place yourself in the person’s shoes and look at your issue from their point of view. Then, you can offer suggestions on how they might propose to solve the issue.
First, select random people and create a list. Then, determine which of the individuals would most likely offer the most thought provoking opinion on the issue to be solved. Once a person has been selected, document the attributes that this person is most famous for. Then, with those attributes in mind, step into that person’s role and define potential solutions.
You may also spark an idea by merely documenting the attributes of that person. For example, the Incredible Hulk is green. The color may cause you to think about recycling as part of your solution. Don’t forget to start the question as with brainstorming; “How might we use (attribute) to solve our issue?’
- Issue to be solved: Improve our competitive advantage
- Outrageous person: The Incredible Hulk
- Attributes: Strong, short temper, angry, appealing to children, green
- Suggestions: Improve the strength of the component to make it last longer than our competitors.
So are you still wondering about the fish and eggs questions? In case the creative methods above didn’t lead you to the answers, here they are:
The two fathers and two sons are actually three family members all representing three generations. With a Grandfather, Father and Son, the Father would actually be both a Father and a Son. Since they each caught a fish, there were only three fish.
The third and final person took both the egg and the basket when they parted ways. As a result, the final egg remained in the basket.
Don’t give up on creativity… there are too many puzzles we still need to solve!
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