Have you ever encountered an unsolvable problem? One that you just can’t seem to figure out the solution? In fact, you question if there really is even a solution.
Hold up. Stop for a minute and try to examine the problem in a different light. In fact, through a different frame.
Thank you again Co.Design for this article that talks about reframing a problem in order to find a creative solution, or any solution at all. Here’s the article followed by my spark notes version and what I got from it.
What is the sum of 5 + 5? VS What two numbers add up to 10?
This is an amazing AMAZING example. In fact, I almost didn’t have to read the rest of the article in order to get the point.
On the left you have one unknown variable x for which there is only one possible correct answer. That’s very limiting, unless you just say f it, who says 5+5 must be 10? Why can’t it be 89? Even though that’s great and more power to you, let’s be honest, the rest of the world will frown.
Meanwhile on the right you are given two variables x and y with only one constraint, x+y = 10. So now you have infinite solutions! Real, unreal… as long as you meet your constraint, by re-framing the problem you have allowed yourself so many more solutions.
What do you mean by re-framing?
The Co.Design example of re-framing references photography. Imagine a scene before you. Beautiful pristine lake with rolling green hills and evergreen trees. A little cabin in the foreground. You snap the shot, a nice wide angle encapsulating everything you see before you. If you re-frame your shot, your bound to see the scene differently every single time. Maybe the house is left out of it and the scene appears untouched by nature. The way you frame determines what comes out of it.
Everyday we frame our perceptions, which LIMITS what we think.
In fact, you can almost think of our frame as a bias. Once we learn one thing or form a certain belief about something, we almost always stick to it. Unless we make ourselves question it – unless we re-frame the knowledge or perception that we’ve created. So how do we reframe?
1. Always ask questions
Not only will this limit personal bias, but this will more importantly help expand your imagination! By asking “why” questions about the problem, it expands the context of the situation, thus increasing the number of solutions you can find and helping make it more obvious which path you should take.
2. Change your persona
In order to really innovate, you have to be able to wear someone else’s shoes besides yourself. In fact, better than that, you have to empathize with them. Try picturing yourself as a child or an old man to change the frame that you originally put around the issue.
3. Change your environment
Imagine the problem in an entirely different culture altogether and how it would be dealt with. This can actually offer up some valuable insight when before it seemed too one-sided.
In order to innovate, we have to be open to change.
We have to be willing to take what we know and question it to the point that maybe we toss it away altogether. We have to make room for evolution and adaptation in order to survive. I mean, the article says it well, “The way we do most things is arbitrary” so be willing to mix it up and change the way you perceive things by re-framing.
Easier said than done, right?