Tag Archives: Paradigm Blinders

“Challenging” the start of Creativity for Transformational Innovation


Image found at http://www.fierceinc.com

Image found at http://www.fierceinc.com

The process of Transformational Innovation requires the use of creativity tools that provide concise and focused steps to understand the starting direction. Establishing this starting point is essential for the efficiency of any idea constructing toolset.  For Innovation and Creativity to be successful, the path we start down needs to be clear, concise and contain focused steps.  In many cases having a good start accounts for half of the battle, and it occurs before we even start an actual idea creating session.

In other words the preparation and development of the Problem, Focus or, “Need Statement” must contain specific elements. Edward De Bono calls them Area (where) and Purpose (why) focuses. But with “Wicked Problems” that contain contradictions and assumptions requires dissecting into pieces or levels.

Functional mapping and Systems analysis requires moving from the Super-System, to System, to Sub System and then looking at that in the perspective or state of the past, present and the future. As you can see getting the idea session ready to start can require preparation up from to understand the correct direction to move forward.

Steve Swann gives us a great start to pulling at the pieces required by asking having you follow three steps – the first step is to answer the following questions:

  • who does it affect / does not affect.
  • what does it affect / does not affect.
  • how does it affect / does not affect.
  • when is it a problem / is not a problem.
  • where is it a problem / is not a problem.

The second step is to understand the state or the level that your problem exists at as illustrated in the figure below from thinkinghow.com.

Image found at http://www.thinkinghow.com

Image found at http://www.thinkinghow.com

The third and final step is to re-state the problem by combining the current state problem with the desired state. But this does not get to the “WHY”. To get to that you need to use a tool called the Ladder of Abstraction. The ladder works by starting with a Need Statement and asking two key questions:

“Why?” or “Why else?” or “What’s stopping you?” or “What else is stopping you?”

You branch the original focus statement in both directions as long as it makes sense and restate the problem at that level. Another way to engage in this divergence process of dissecting the starting point can be to use. This tool is a mental whetstone, capable of sharpening, refining, focusing the most powerful tool at the thinker’s disposal. Their own minds, which exponentially adds to their impact on the value stream.

One final comment is that sometimes the focus, problem or need statement needs to be phrased in a more serendipitous manner. It may need to have something included inside it that asks us to achieve greatness, to find new ideas focused on novelty and originality. A way to accomplish this is to “Challenge” your teams with a cognitive provocation. Examples of this can be formulated by stating “we a challenging you to…..”

  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that allow us to reduce costs by 10%
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that improve functionality
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that increase safety by 5%
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that reduce parts and simplify the design
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that increase performance by 20%

The simple process of creating and using what I call a Challenge Statement allows you to quickly formulate a desired or future state condition without placing any preconceived bias or paradigm blinders on.  These can also be fun and crazy but at the same time quite impactful. Remember John F. Kennedy’s challenge. On May 25, 1961, he stood in front of Congress to deliver a special message on “urgent national needs.” He asked for an additional $7 billion to $9 billion over the next five years for the space program, proclaiming that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

A message that inspired us to achieve an incredible series of events constructed by thousands of people creating ideas based upon a Challenge Statement. Maybe it’s time for us to establish 5 new STEM challenges for society such as:

  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that allow us to recycle every households trash by an additional 10% by the year 2015.
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that reduce the carbon footprint of each person by 5% each year.
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that allow us to reduce the amount of gasoline or petroleum required for each car by 20% in the next 3 years.
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that increase the literacy of everyone in the United States by 5% over the next 5 years.
  • We are challenging you to create new ideas that allow Sustainable Leadership training and mentoring for young adults to learn and implement by the time the time they graduate from college and enter the workforce.

These 5 grand “Challenges” can be used to help us as a society move forward in a positive direction now and in the future. So who’s willing to take a challenge and run with it to create truly Transformational Innovation..?


  1. http://www.digitalpulse.pwc.com.au/problem-statement-innovation/
  2. http://www.stanford.edu/group/biodesign/cgi-bin/ebiodesign/index.php/needs-finding/needstatement-menu
  3. http://thinkinghow.com/writing-a-problem-statement/
  4. http://www.rijnlandmodel.nl/english/general_semantics/abstraction_ladder.htm
  5. http://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/Space-Program.aspx