For the most creative solutions you need to get your mind looking in new directions. One of the most systematic ways to do this, is with a list of words, primarily adjectives, to create “what if?” scenarios. The process starts with the question, “what if it was…” and then you insert a word from the list. “It” in the question is the problem you’re working on, or the current solution or situation.
Let’s explain the process with an example or two.
Example one: You have is an unpleasant co-worker. You aren’t sure how to deal with him, so you ask about the problem, “What if it was…” and insert from the list “smaller.” How could you make the problem smaller? Spend less time with that person? Get reassigned?
“What if it was… fun?” makes you wonder if being annoying yourself might keep the other person away from you. “Closer” makes you wonder if this person might be nicer to you if they knew you better. You continue down the list and work with each word a bit to get new ideas, which you will look at more analytically later.
Example two: Your house is too crowded because you’re running your business from it. You ask, “What if it was…” and insert from the word list, “smaller.” Your house is already too small, but could the business be smaller? The word “divided” might give you the idea to keep the business in just one part of the house.
Since most words on the list won’t help, you can go through the irrelevant ones quickly. But don’t automatically dismiss them without a few seconds consideration. “What if it was hopeless?” may seem like a useless question, or it may make you realize that you just can’t keep the business in the house any longer. Moving into a rented office might be the most profitable of your creative solutions.
Feel free to create your own list of words. You’ll want to use adjectives, descriptive phrases, and any words that can change your perspective. Here is a short list to get you started:
What if it was… larger, smaller, farther away, closer, sooner, later, easier, more difficult, higher, fat, rich, short, black, certain, hopeless, newer, boring, casual, subtracted from, cheaper, common, divided, more interesting, extravagant, subtle, or fun?
Just as with most problem solving techniques, it’s important to allow the ideas to flow without judging them initially. You don’t want to stifle the creative process. Take notes, then evaluate your ideas later, when you have a page full of creative solutions.