We all have problems that need solving. We all have challenges or roadblocks that keep us from growing our profitability and cash flow faster.
Some of us (especially me) try to solve problems analytically. Others try to solve problems in a more creative fashion.
Dr. Caneel Joyce has an approach that is both surprising and effective no matter what problem you are trying to solve and regardless of how you are naturally wired.
The Thriveal Podcast
Dr. Caneel Joyce was a guest on episode 36 of the Thrivecast with Jason Blumer and Greg Kyte in June 2014. It was fantastic information presented in an action-oriented, "here's exactly how you to do it" format. I loved it.
She has a PhD in Organizational Behavior from the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley. She says:
"My life is a dance between right brain and left brain. I spent the first half of my life as an actress and artist. After the dot com bust, I dove into more analytical approaches to business, creative strategy, and product innovation. Working with startups and product teams gives me the most irresistible blend of creative and insight-driven strategy."
Constraints Lead to Effortless Creativity
What fascinates me about Caneel's approach is her view that putting limitations around things helps you create ideas.
"Limitations, or constraints, help you unleash the creativity inside you and inside your team."
It is totally counterintuitive. But I have to come to believe it is absolutely true.
Much of her unique approach comes from the dissertation she wrote for her PhD titled The Blank Page: Effects of Constraint on Creativity.
She says this in the introduction:
"Freedom is often associated with creativity, yet recent work in the decision making literature suggests that too much freedom can be paralyzing when it provides too many choices."
She also shared on the podcast some interesting ways to look at or define an idea.
- An idea should be something somebody can say no to like "no, I don't like that". If everybody likes your idea, it's not an idea.
- An idea should eliminate certain courses of action.
- An idea is a directional concept that eliminates some potential courses of action, and illuminates some other courses of action.
- An idea should send you down a certain path, and close some other doors.
The Five Step Approach to Solving Problems (and Becoming More Creative)
On the podcast, she led a fun discussion on a five step approach to solving stubborn problems.
Define an important problem you want (or need) to solve. Write down a problem you want to solve in your business. Maybe you want to find a way to double sales. Or you want to sell to a new customer segment. Maybe you have a serious problem or threat facing your business and you don't know what to do about it. Write down the problem.
- Create some crazy constraints. Crazy time limits are one of her favorite ways to crank up the creative process. The next constraint is to "playfully" think of five different categories of ideas to consider that might help solve the problem. One category might be ideas you could be arrested for. One category might be ideas you can't afford. Then set a crazy time constraint. For example, you have three minutes to list ideas in each of the categories you choose. The purpose of the crazy constraints is to force your brain to examine ideas and concepts in a new and different way.
Start writing. Now it's time to start writing ideas in each of the five categories you've chosen. You have three minutes for each category so keep your pen moving. Take a one minute break between each category. No big thinking. No planning. No judging yourself. Once you're done you've completed what Caneel describes as five "ideation sprints".
- Find the intersection of interesting and smart. Read the ideas you wrote down and put a star next to the ones that seem interesting to you. Not good, interesting. (And you know it's interesting when you read it and you get a little bit nervous.) Now read the list again and circle the ideas that sound smart. What you're looking for here is an idea that is both interesting and smart.
- Go a little deeper. Select three of the ideas, preferably the ones that you consider both interesting and smart, and write a one pager on each of the three ideas. You are basically describing those three ideas in more detail. It can still be a little messy. You're trying to see if you have the "brain juice" to turn your ideas into reality. It helps you determine if you want to create an action plan to make it happen.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
At the heart of her approach is the old saying that "necessity is the mother of invention". The constraints drive necessity… and your creative juices flow from there.
Give it a try with your team on a problem that, if solved, could unlock an exciting path to dramatic increases in profitability and cash flow.
Then send me a note about how it worked for you.
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