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Brainhack by Neil Pavitt

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21 Take Away the Context

“It isn't that they can't see the solution. It is that they can't see the problem.”

G.K. Chesterton

When we've got a problem to solve, our mind's tendency is to fixate on the common use of an object or its parts.

For example:

Problem 1: A ski company had a problem with their skis vibrating too much at high speeds. Obvious action: Look at other manufacturers' skis and snowboards.

Problem 2: People feel a lift journey takes too long. Obvious action: Make the lift faster.

Problem 3: Too many head injuries are happening in American football.Obvious action: Give helmets more padding.

But in actual fact the best solution to these particular problems were found in some very unexpected areas:

Problem: Vibrating skis Answer: Violins
Problem: Slow lifts Answer: Mirrors
Problem: Head injuries Answer: Magnets.

Now you might think these very lateral solutions come from taking the blinkers off and widening your thinking. Wrong. You need to narrow your thinking. Reduce the problem to its purest form.

Take the problem of vibrating skis. The natural solution would be to focus on everything related to skiing: What happens to other makes of skis; what happens to snowboards; what happens on different types of snow at different speeds; what effect does the weight of the person on the skis have; and what effect does the width of the skis and the length of the skis have? And so on.

The trouble is everything is related to snow, skis and skiing. True, that's the ...

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