Have you ever worked on a project so intensively, that you got stuck on a single solution that just…didn’t…quite…work? It’s easy to do. As humans, we fall in love with our inventions and ideas, even when they don’t fit the problem we’re trying to solve. This is even more true of groups who become invested in their collective work.
Next time you get stuck, get super-curious. Be like a cat checking out a paper bag. Look under, over, in, and around your idea from every possible angle. Back away from it, then get real close. Invite other “cats” to check it out, too.
That’s what I do, in writing reports or creating facilitation agendas for challenging situations. When I get stuck on what I’ve written or hold onto an approach that isn’t just right, I get curious about the experience of my report readers, clients, or meeting participants. I invite outside reviewers, too. These tactics make it easier to scrap mediocre ideas and keep moving toward a stellar product.
With a few easy techniques, curiosity makes it better! Use them by yourself, or with your team:
- Pretend that your competitor had your idea; then grab the nearest red pen and give your report, your design, your strategy – whatever you’ve been working on – a severe critique. Anything goes; it’s OK be harsh. Then see what you discover about the holes in your solution.
- Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes – your client, your audience, your reader, your product user – and comment on the pros and cons of your solution from THEIR perspective. What would they say? How does your idea improve with their input?
- Be a 2-year-old and ask “WHY?” about every single aspect of your solution. For every aspect that doesn’t have a good answer, change it. Be relentless, just like a toddler. Your solution will only get better.
By seeking different perspectives, you’ll discover one or more angles that illuminate the way to a better answer.
Last spring, I worked with a nonprofit’s advisory council, to facilitate the strategic planning for a new revenue-generating service they wanted to establish. It was a brand-new, compelling idea, and everyone loved it. We used strategic planning to test the idea, so that the council could make sure that the new service would be a viable money-maker for the nonprofit. Using some of the techniques above, we asked a lot of questions about similar services offered by others, who competitors might be, and target customers. Of course we discovered strengths that the nonprofit could leverage, and weaknesses that had to be mitigated. The idea for the new service area evolved into a stronger version, and has since been piloted with great success.
Some say curiosity killed the cat. I beg to differ! Curiosity saved the cat.