Creative Problem Creation

by Mike Shipulski

Creative Problem Creation Problems get a bad rap. We’re all clear on the negativity around problems, but we don’t appreciate their positive character. It’s time we use their powers for good.

One of the least popular characteristics of problems is their selfishness. Like the friend who shows up for dinner unannounced, problems, left to their own, care only about their calendar. But to overcome this shortcoming and harness their energy, we can create them to fit our timetable.

An important strong suit of problems is their ability to create focus. When the VP has a problem, everybody has a problem. And it’s this persuasive power of problems that focuses the organization on a solution – resources, alignment, and creativity on demand.

I propose we bring problems to life on our own terms to create new thinking; to creatively fabricate problems to generate laser-focused thinking in the direction of our choice; to imagine what could be and create the right problems to get us there. Creativity on demand.

The most provocative and productive problems to manufacture are those that remove inherent goodness of your products or that outlaw their physical fundamentals. Like putting your thumb over a hose, these problems spray high velocity thinking in unpredictable directions.

Here are some examples:

1. Big coffee pot can make only one cup – single-cup brewer industry.

2. Speedboats cannot carry multiple passengers – personal water craft industry.

3. Lights must illuminate only a small area – LED proliferation.

4. Sturdy running shoes must be floppy – bare foot running shoe movement.

5. Desktop computers must be mobile – laptop industry.

6. Stiff, wear-like-iron dungarees must be worn out – faded/distressed jean movement.

7. Eye glasses cannot rest on the nose – contact lenses.

8. Pencils cannot be sharpened – mechanical pencils.

9. Laser printers must be slow – home printer industry.

Sure, these examples were reverse engineered. But take a minute to walk back in time and sit in those industries. What if back then you created those problems for yourself? What if you create them tomorrow?

The thinking in the post is strongly shaped by Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner’s Anti Conventional Thinking (ACT).

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Mike ShipulskiDr. Mike Shipulski brings together the best of Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, Axiomatic Design, TRIZ, and lean to develop innovative products and technologies. His blog can be found at Shipulski On Design.

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