The way you define or frame your problem can limit your creativity. If you describe the issue you’re trying to solve in a different way, or look at it from a different angle, new solutions can emerge.

Creativity takes developing your curiosity. You have to flip your mindset and start questioning the problem with a free-floating process of accepting all ideas, inspiring and boring.  You also have to give the process time. You may not get answers right away or when they do pop up, they may not in the form that you are used to working with.   This is to be expected when brainstorming, as the rule is all answers are accepted, from the banal to the outlandish.

Reframe and Rephrase the Problem

To get the creative process flowing, try rephrasing the problem.  Like brainstorming, you to open your mind to accept new and different solutions.  Provide patients with this process as you need to be able to not always know what to ask.  When the insights come, it can mean a big reward.

For example, when Uber founder Garrett Camp wanted to start a transport service, he could have focused simply on what everyone else did in the past – buying and managing enough vehicles to make a profit. Instead, he reframed the problem in terms of how he could best address passengers’ needs.  He also rephrased the question of what they weren’t getting in the way of convenient transportation.

By merging his business with technology and the knowledge that everyone uses of smart phones, he was able to develop a powerful app that meet his goal of convenience.  Compare Uber to a fleet of cars and innovation was born.

Ask Clarifying Questions

By changing the problem’s description, you can begin to see it a different way.  Here’s a suggestion.  Try the journalist’s trick to tell a story about the problem by working with the “Five W’s and one H”, that is who, what, where, when, why and how.

Let’s assume that your product is not selling as well as you thought.  You don’t know what the problem is, so begin by defining these questions:

  • Who is the product targeting to? Who also has a similar product?  Who are they selling to?
  • What is the overall marketing plan? Does it need to be adjusted? Is print an important aspect as well as digital methods? What are the customer demographics?
  • Where is the product marketed? Is it reaching the target audience?
  • When did the product get introduced? When do you expect to reach the targeted sales number? When do you place ads, both digital and print?
  • Why should customers care about this product? Why will it benefit them? Why should they pay the decided dollar amount to purchase it?
  • How is the product distributed to customers?

By telling a story about the product, different aspects are introduced and a more holistic picture can be created to allow the flow of ideas.  By using this method, you can also catch missing items that may help to build innovation.

Another way to rephrase the problem is to think in reverse.  Turning the problem upside down can help you come up with different approaches.  We tend to get used to looking at the problem in only one way.  Flip the question and explore the exact opposite of what you want to achieve. This can present you with innovative ways to tackle the real issue.

For example, let’s say that you’re trying to redesign a sports line for yoga students.  What we see available on the shelves and also online are sleek, tight-fitting yoga pants and shirts with cool prints.   Think about how you’d create the worst looking design possible – baggy, unattractive colors and out-of-date prints.  Look at what you would change to create a new design – what it needs to have and what can be discarded.  Ask yourself how you can make it stand out with competing products and allow the innovation to flow as you come up with something entirely new.

By trying rephrasing or reversing the problem, you can unblock old ways of thinking.  Often, we get stuck when solving problems in the same way.  We are opening a new way to get unique ideas and to potentially set yourself apart.

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