Buckminster Fuller argued that “You can’t change the way people think, all you can do is give them a tool, the use of which will change their thinking.” So what are some practical tools you can use to help people break out of their traditional ways of thinking and deciding?
5 Practical Tools to Apply
Here are 5 tools to facilitate thinking wrong. They’re based on questioning whether the problem as first perceived or presented is the actual problem.
Great questions unleash creativity. Great questions can themselves imply an answer. And most importantly, great questions create a possibility space within which people can cocreate answers.
1. Question the assumptions
A simple technique for questioning the assumptions behind a problem statement is to question each element in the statement. Assumptions embedded in each of the elements may mean you’re trying to solve the wrong problem or they make the problem seem impossible to solve.
Start by phrasing the problem in the form of a question using the words “How do.” Then underline each word in the problem that implies an assumption. Finally question the assumptions, meaning and creative possibilities contained in each of the underlined words.
So for example, let’s say you've been given the mandate to “Create a mobile strategy.”
How do we create a mobile strategy?
WE: The IT team? HR? Cross-disciplinary team? Co-created? Outside agency?
CREATE: What do we mean by create? What’s might the process of creation look like? Drafting a document? Prototyping the future?
MOBILE: How do you define mobility? Is it a device or a screen? A channel? Or could it instead be people on the move? What about smart objects? The internet of everything?
A: One? Multiple? Emergent? Any?
STRATEGY: What do we mean by strategy? Technology? Platform? Mobile workforce? Servingcustomers in new ways? Mobile as a lever for innovating the business model? A set of principles or guidelines framing our beliefs around mobility? Should there even be strategy in the context of mobile or is it actually the business strategy we should be looking at?
2. Play 20 questions in search of a strategic framing question
Finding the right question can be hard. Twenty questions is simple technique for brainstorming questions rather than answers. Invite a interesting mix of people with different responsibilities and viewpoints to ensure you’ll get an interesting variety of questions. Have each person silently generate 20 questions, writing quickly without judging or thinking about the questions. Post them for everyone to see. Then use dot voting to vote on most interesting questions.
Here’s an example from Idea Stormers. “How can we invent a better iron?” The word iron encompasses too many mental givens, so what’s a better strategic question? After playing 20 questions, you might land on the question “How about if we invent new garment care devices?
Let’s say you start with the problem statement “What’s our mobile strategy? Here are 10 I quickly jotted down as if I was participating in a 20 questions session:
- How can we better connect our workforce with our customers?
- What touchpoints can we reinvent?
- What social, emotional or functional jobs could we better help our customers with by leveraging mobile?
- What social, emotional or functional jobs could we better help our employees with by leveraging mobile?
- How do we make our products talk?
- How can we turn our [xyz] product into a service that keeps our customers coming back again and again?
- How can we bring our product to our customers when they are most likely to buy?
- How can we embed just in time teachable moments?
- What opportunities does a mobile customer create to reinvent our business model?
- How can mobile turn our product into a habit?
3. 7ws helps you find more interesting questions
I have six honest servants; they've taught me all I know. Their names are what, why, and who, and when and where and how. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
Image source: QUT’s Design Led Innovation Toolkit
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