Unstick Your Startup with This Problem Solving Secret : Under30CEO Unstick Your Startup with This Problem Solving Secret : Under30CEO
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Unstick Your Startup with This Problem Solving Secret

| August 17, 2009 | 11 Comments

You need to get more sales. Or a better way to distribute your product. Maybe you need to attract more users or just think of a new startup to chase…

Whatever, what your particular problem or goal is is beside the point. You have an endgame you’re trying to reach. You’re at Point A looking for the path to Point B.

You have two choices on how to do this:

Think of yourself at Point A and imagine the chain of events that will bring you to Point B. Or Consider yourself already at Point B, and mentally step slowly backwards to point A.

Which one do you think works better for the creative process?

The first is what we usually do, but what about those times you get stumped this way?

That’s when we use the second method, called Lateral Thinking, because it disregards your expectations. Breaks you out of the box, and all that.

Here’s the interesting part: Changing the direction you come at the problem from will actually help you think up new solutions! This is because instead of thinking vertically up from the problem — where you’ve already been doing a lot of thinking — you progress laterally out from the solution. You’re bound to think up a lot of new possibilities this way because it forces you into a new perspective.

It’s like solving a maze by starting at the end.

As you figure your way back to the start, you can confidently look over your shoulder to see a clear path back to your goal. It frees you from the rigid constraints of logical thinking because you know any path you might explore has a valid connection back to your endgame. This lets you confidently consider unusual, even absurd paths. You can realistically ponder solutions you never would have thought of as options if you’d stuck to vertical thinking, but are clearly viable solutions now that you see how they connect to your endgame — it’s just a matter of thinking how those unusual paths might be led back to your Point A. Working backwards is always more flexible, and even more fun.

This reveals a solution you may not have normally found.

To get from A to B, you may have to pass through Point C, or maybe it’s best to take the long route through E and F. Whatever. The point is now you know how to do it. Now you can go do it.

Jordan Feldstein is a friend to all, lover to few, who hopes his writing shows people what’s within reach when you’re willing to think and operate outside the norm. He believes that education should be used to open minds not train workers, that technology should simplify life and that music can free the soul. Now building his second company, Jordan is waiting to turn 21 to have a beer with you.

YSN

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Category: Startup Advice

  • http://Under30CEO.com Jared O'Toole

    Thinking up the unusual or even outrageous solutions to a problem is one of the hardest yet most important things to do as an entrepreneur. These solutions are usually the ones that will give you that competitive advantage when your just starting out.

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    If you have to go from Point A to Point B instead of taking baby steps, look at where you want to be think the fastest way to get there. Don't necessarily go step by step but think about the most unreasonable way to get there.

    Why walk when you can run?
    Why fly when you can transport yourself?

  • tylerras

    Another method that I use when I'm stuck is to pull out a blank sheet of paper and force yourself to write down 20 ideas that will solve your problem. I've done this many times, and there's always at least one idea that I write that gets me over the challenge.

  • http://Under30CEO.com Jared O'Toole

    Thats a great idea. Force yourself to come up with all the answers from all angles. Dont worry how crazy they are. One of those crazy ideas might actaully end up bringing you to the best solution.

  • http://twitter.com/jfeldstein jfeldstein

    Yep. It's all about vision. Most people who've come up with something revolutionary, if you talk to them, will tell you that they didn't come up with anything new. The truth was always there.

    Steve Jobs and Edwin Land (Founded Polaroid) both say the same thing about their contributions to the world.

  • http://twitter.com/jfeldstein jfeldstein

    Interesting… Try to focus on the unusual to help break out of a rut. I like it.

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    Nice method. I always have a person I can call and bounce ideas off of as my problem solver. I think sometimes just talking them out gets me to a solution on my own, I just need an ear.

  • Threedot

    Wow – great post – so simple and elegant, but it never really occurred to me. Thanks for the insight.

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    Think of the most ridiculous way to get from point A to B and DO IT. Dream it up.

    Want to run the superbowl halftime show? Is that your life's goal? Go knock on the event coordinator's door, be tenacious, come in hand with a 400 page report on how you can improve the show, STOP AT NOTHING.

    Want it more than anyone else.

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    Think of the most ridiculous way to get from point A to B and DO IT. Dream it up.

    Want to run the superbowl halftime show? Is that your life's goal? Go knock on the event coordinator's door, be tenacious, come in hand with a 400 page report on how you can improve the show, STOP AT NOTHING.

    Want it more than anyone else.

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    Think of the most ridiculous way to get from point A to B and DO IT. Dream it up.

    Want to run the superbowl halftime show? Is that your life's goal? Go knock on the event coordinator's door, be tenacious, come in hand with a 400 page report on how you can improve the show, STOP AT NOTHING.

    Want it more than anyone else.