Do questions such as, “Where am I?”, “How did I get here?” and “How can I move forward?” strike a particular nerve in you?
If the answer is yes, chances are, you’re stuck. So, what can you do to carry on?
It is entirely OK to be stuck. Being an expert on something can run us the risk of being blinded to other perspectives. While it can be hard to see the way out when you’re right in the thick of it, you must remember that we’ve all been stuck before, and have come out on the other side with great learnings (and stories) and relatively unharmed.
The good news is, you probably are not as stuck as you think, and there are a few things you can do to help yourself. Pause. Rethink. Find support. Remember, being stuck is fertile ground for a transformation to occur; it is an invitation to grow.
Beyond going out for a walk, detaching yourself from the problem, and ping-ponging ideas with a friend (the usual advice), here are three innovation tools/techniques that can help you get out of your creative block.
1. Seek out a different opinion
Odds are, many people and industries have had to confront challenges similar to the ones you are facing right now. Learn from them, observe how they solved the problem, and use that knowledge to your advantage. Often time the learnings are applicable to your problem or their approach could inspire your way of thinking.
When I worked in the restaurant industry, a bottleneck often formed in the cook line when certain dishes were ordered. The obvious solution would have been to eliminate those dishes from the menu, but instead, we commission a short experiment. To learn about this issue, we thought about other industries where speed and momentum were essential to problem-solving; two people studied the logistics of the pit stop at an auto race, while two others examined a speed dating session in New York City. We learned not only the importance that rehearsing and preparation can have but how the right flow (of people and ingredient placement) can avoid jamming the line. If most of the ingredients were readily prepared well beforehand, the sauté station wouldn’t get as congested in the middle of a busy shift.
This technique is derived from Lateral Thinking, the ability to use your imagination to see problems from a new, fresh angle in order to generate solutions. Lateral Strategy’s name is inspired by this strategic and creative thinking technique invented by Edward DeBono who became World famous for the six-thinking hats tool some of you have probably heard of.
2. Draw inspiration from hacks, workarounds and polarizing points of view.
Another suggestion is to seek extreme users, people who either overuse or underuse your product or service. Someone who has a completely different opinion on a certain issue than the average person can help you pull out meaningful needs that may not pop out when you focus on engaging with mainstream users. Extreme users have opposing attitudes and conversing with them can help you turn your conventional idea into a very unique one. You can find your niche in their uncommon interests, and perhaps even turn a rare concept into a trending topic.
One example of this is vegan food products. Not too long ago, dietary restriction was considered pretty extreme by the average consumer. Vegan products were perceived as unappetizing, bland, and pricey – until recently. Beyond Meat, a company that produces plant-based meat alternatives, partnered with Pizza Hut Puerto Rico to sell the “Beyond Sausage Pizza”. Vegans and meat-lovers alike are loving the newest menu item. The collaboration helped Beyond Meat move from niche to mainstream. Who would have guessed 10 years ago that a partnership like this one would have worked?
Lateral Strategy specializes in moving ideas forward. We are an Insight and Innovation Studio that uses Creative Problem Solving, Design Thinking and Synectics Innovation Frameworks to help clients problem-solve by understanding customers’ needs. Our services include Research, Ideation and Strategic Facilitation to help you learn the new, make sense of what you already know, and pave the road to success. We bring actionable insight to all Research projects and move clients to solution finding faster.