Pursuing new opportunities can often unleash a string of what we have come to call Challenge Statements. How might we, for example, provide a Personalised, Dynamic and Seamless digital experience to our customers? How might we contribute to our customers’ success by becoming an integral part of their teams – an invisible partner who catalyzes action? How might we know which opportunity space could yield the most sustainable path for our business?
These challenges, all framed as questions, often do not have a straightforward answer. They require us to envision the problem differently and make our assumptions explicit before we ‘throw solutions into the mix’. This is where expanding our field of vision can be helpful and that requires us to bring in both data and a healthy dose of our imagination.
One tool we use, when tackling such challenge statements, is Six Impossible Things – a way to awaken our imagination and build on each others’ perspectives. On the surface, it seems rather straightforward. It involves looking for twelve ways of solving a challenge. Six of these should be rather far-fetched, imaginative, even outright impossible, not feasible, best to ‘leave out’. The other six should be more realistic, sensible, rather practical options.
In most instances, it is the more realistic options that receive attention. After all, shouldn’t we meet this challenge head-on, with practical tools, proven methods and well-used practices? In short, we all want to win. However, as pointed to by Larry Page, co-founder of Google, it is often easier to make something ten times better than traditional solutions which might make it ten percent better (and in the process, draw on more effort and resources than originally envisaged).
In a world of seismic shifts, where technologies converge at an accelerating pace and where incremental thinking is increasingly shown to not meet the challenges we face, from Climate Change to the provision of basic services, from educating our children to thrive in a world of existential challenges (many of our creation) to finding new spaces for our innovation efforts – we need imaginative problem-solving.
And so, during our work, it is very often the team that provides imaginative solutions that get there first. They have their ‘six impossible ways’ ready before their colleagues who are proposing more traditional, ‘practical’ solutions, ready to discuss. Sometimes, the latter team may not even reach six practical solutions, in all.
What we are left with is a windfall – a list of highly imaginative solutions, which to Larry’s point, are better aimed at the challenges we face. Yes, it is just the beginning of the journey to meet such complex challenges, but we know that we are well on the path to meeting new opportunity spaces.
That is what imaginative problem solving can bring.
Have a good weekend everyone!