Provoking Great Ideas
By Ed Bernacki | August 31, 2008
They say that drastic times call for drastic measures. When it rains, it really does pour. One problem after another. Your back is against the wall. A customer says that their poor experience with your business was the straw that broke the camel's back. You ask for a chance to recover. They say, "Sure when pigs fly!" You’re now under the gun. You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. How will you solve the problems and turn them into opportunities?
It would be impossible to fit more clichés into one paragraph but why do so many businesses wait for drastic times, work under the gun, and find themselves between a rock and a hard place before taking drastic measures?
Some times we are provoked into action by necessity (as it is the mother of invention) but could you avoid this necessity by exploring the issue beforehand? My point is most people do not explore issues beforehand. In response some businesses are now organizing brainstorming sessions to provoke new thinking by using a deliberate provocation'.
One of the most interesting observers of this concept of provocation is creativity guru Edward de Bono. He noticed that we so often hear the word no' in our lives that we have become conditioned to assume our ideas are weak. He wrote, "Most people look at a new idea only in order to see what is wrong with it and how quickly they can reject it." He also observed that we do not have a word in English to provoke new thinking without being considered negative. As such, he coined a term, 'PO'.
PO is an expression that makes it safe and useful to provoke new thinking. For example:
- You are asked to accept or reject an option. You are uneasy with this and say, "PO: the answer is not yes' or no', there is a better option."
- PO can be used to ask for new ways to look at something without rejecting the current option. You can explore a situation without being critical, as in "PO: our customers are satisfied. Why are they not ecstatic?"
- PO could also be used, "I have an idea, PO. You're not looking for judgment or debate; you want to explore this possibility.
PO stops our thinking from being rigid when our particular view excludes all others. It also reminds as that our logical decisions are limited by our assumptions which may or may not be accurate. There are many ways that you can explore options and scenarios. The key is actively exploring business issues with this type of attitude:
Let's set our thinking free.
Liberate your thinking. Change the way things are done around here. What assumptions have been made that people stopped noticing?
- Recognize today's assumptions and question them.
- Escape from old established ideas to better ones.
- Cut through unnecessary complexity and simplify.
- Escape from the domination of fixed ideas.
Let's explore for the sake of doing so.
Let's look beyond the obvious and not be satisfied with the status quo.
- Listen to accept other points of view.
- Look for alternatives: look beyond the obvious.
- Do not be satisfied with the adequate and the mediocre.
Let's kick start new thinking.
Let's stimulate new ideas and go forward to see where it takes us.
- Use of unstable situations or the unknowns in business as stepping stones to new ideas.
- Go forward to explore ideas in order to see what happens.
This is a cliché that PO protects you and your organization from. It is this, "Great minds like alike." If they do, you may be in trouble. When people say this, what they mean is, "I like the way you think. It's just like how I think." Andâ€¦this is why you may end up in a situation when drastic times call for drastic measures.