|Over the years, I’ve noticed that when people define a problem to be solved, they often put an initial boundary condition (constraint) on the problem. Having your hands tied in this way, greatly reduces the options and possibilities of new ideas.
Here are a few “cuffs” that tie our hands and how you might view them differently, i.e. un-cuff your hands.
“Trade off” cuffs: When solving problems we often assume that some of our goals are inversely tied together, i.e. you can only achieve one at the detriment of the other. For example; In the HeadScratcher, “How do I balance quantity vs quality?” Indeed these are often connected, but before you assume they are, why not start with the HeadScratcher, “How do we achieve both our quality and quantity goals?” Instead of starting with “This OR That”, start with “This AND That”
“More of the same” cuffs: I’ve seen many headscratchers stated like; “We have lost people on our project. How do we quickly hire their replacement so we still meet our schedule?” It may come down to hiring people, but the problem really is “How do we achieve our schedule?”. Hiring more people may be one way, but perhaps there are others; e.g. reduce scope, schedule overtime, negotiate a new schedule, increase productivity, reduce errors, etc. Just because you lost people from your project doesn’t mean the solution is rehiring. Instead of “How do we replace what we lost”, use “How do we achieve our goal”. Perhaps you’ll discover other ways beyond the original one.
“False Assumption” cuffs: A mistake often occurs because we make assumptions about an initial condition without first verifying that the assumption is true. For example; we make assumptions about what our customer needs. This assumption might be based on what the customer says, even what they document as a requirement. So we deliver on that request, only to find that our assumption about what they really meant is different. Instead of assuming you know, verify it.
“We did that before” cuffs: Experience is a valuable asset, but sometimes we mistakenly associate a new situation as being the same as one that we have experience with. While it might look similar, perhaps there are changes or small differences that makes this situation a bit different. Even if it’s the same as before, perhaps there are new tools, technologies, and people that, this time, might make a difference. Instead of starting with the view of “been there, done that”, maybe start with “might have been there, might have done that, but let’s take another look”.
"Can't do” cuffs: This is the classic, “I/we can’t do that”. Change that to “I/we can do it”. Change your thinking from “it can’t be solved” to “there’s a solution out there, we just have to find it”
“They’ll never approve it” cuffs. Many ideas never make it beyond an initial thought because the thinking is that management / leadership would never approve such a thing. Maybe so, but instead of starting with “them”, start with “we”. Turn it around. Add “convincing” as a component of your solution, as opposed to a barrier. Ask “how can we persuade management/leadership”.
When critically thinking and being creative, start with your hands free instead of wearing handcuffs that significantly reduce your options and creativity.