Breaking Patterns

“We need to think differently”
“This needs some fresh approach”
“I have got to be more creative on this”

If these are the questions that are constantly haunting you while at work and yet you find it difficult to create something new around the same idea that you had earlier, worry not, these are creative gaps that your mind goes through because it is over worked on the same topic for a long time. All of us tend to get stuck in certain thinking patterns. Breaking these thought patterns can help us get our mind unstuck and generate new ideas. There are several techniques that we can use to break established thought patterns:

• Challenge your assumptions: For every situation there are a set of assumptions that we already have. Challenging these assumptions gives us a whole new twirl on possibilities. For e.g. You want to organize a party and have pictured what the venue would be. But when you go there to book the place the manager informs you with that place has been booked for your required date. Challenge the assumption. Sure, you don’t have the venue you always wanted but Can’t you picture a different venue? Can’t you plan the party for another time? Can’t you save up and book a better place and a better grandeur for another time? Suddenly the picture starts looking brighter.

• Reword the problem: Whenever we seem to be stuck with a problem we tend to think “what is the problem?”, “What can we do?”, “What shall be the next step?”, these questions just confuse us further and we get nowhere near solving or even addressing what the problem is. Instead when we get stuck with questions like these what if reword our questions and ask them differently. So if our questions were “What is the problem?”, “What can we do?” or “what shall be our next step?” we can ask questions like “Why do we need to solve the problem?”, “What’s the barricade here?”, “What will happen if we don’t solve the problem?”. These questions help giving new insights into the problem and help us come up with new ideas to solve our new problem.

• Think in Reverse: often we get stuck with one idea and feel there is no way we can generate anything new around it. What if we try turning the idea we have had upside down i.e. instead of thinking of solving a problem how about we focus on how ‘not’ to solve the problem? For e.g. Instead of thinking what more can be done to make the product better, how about we think what are the disadvantages of the product? This would help give us a differentiating table where one side can have disadvantages of the product and the other the advantages. So the more disadvantages we have, better the chance and more creative the ideas we get, through which we can upgrade/ improve the product.

• Express yourself through different media: “The difficulty with defining the term problem is that problem solving is relative. The same tasks that call for significant efforts from some people may well be routine exercise for others, and answering them may just be a matter of recall for a given mathematician. Thus being a “problem” is not a property inherent in a task. Rather, it is a particular relationship between the individual and the task that makes the task a problem for that person.” A. H. Schoenfeld , Mathematical Problem Solving.
We have multiple ways in which we communicate but when it comes to workplace we get stuck with only verbal reasoning ability. Instead, what if we express the challenge through a different medium? For e.g. through music, painting, games, clay etc. But during this exercise our motive should be to express the problem and not to solve it. Thus different expressions may give different patterns and with these new patterns we can yield new ideas in solving the problem.