Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Turn, Turn, Click!


My friend Jane is an amazing problem solver. She's a Creative Director extraordinaire at an agency with a large and demanding cosmetics brand as her client.

She is constantly producing a high volume of work and wrestling with multiple projects. She needs to be able to quickly evaluate different options, find an inspired solution, and move on to the next challenge.

What's so neat about Jane is that although she started her career as a copywriter, subsequent job opportunities allowed her to develop the parts of her brain that dwell in visual language.

So now when she has a problem to tackle, she actually visualizes it.

She recently described her process to me as similar to picturing an imaginary Rubik's cube and turning it around and around, exploring all the facets of the challenge, until all the pieces click into place...and voila the colors are aligned!

It got me thinking that problem visualization could be an interesting technique to try.

Particularly for people like me who are much more comfortable with words. But sometimes reasoning things out on paper only gives the illusion of problem solving. But in our cut and paste culture, it can be just moving our thoughts around but not actually driving them towards any cohesive conclusion.

I like Jane's approach because you can't complete a puzzle (or a Rubik's cube) until all the pieces fit together in an order that makes sense and ultimately represents a sum that's bigger than the whole of the parts.

So here's a trick to try. Next time you are struggling with a strategic or creative challenge, leave the memos and the power points aside. Instead, create some sort of visualization of the pieces you are working with.

Perhaps draw a symbol for each of the components (e.g. a stick figure for your consumer, a sledge hammer for that threatening competitor, etc). Then create a visualization that helps you work it out.

This could be a puzzle, a picture book, a board game, even a 3-d diorama.

The important thing is that you demonstrate the issue in a way that's visual and where you can physically move the pieces around as you problem solve.

Invite others to play along with you and maybe a little creative visualization will be just the trick to help the solution click into place.

That's my point of view. What's your twist?

What's your Rubik's cube?

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