Tag Archives: creative problem solving

To innovate: Steal don’t imitate

When no one knows what’s going to happen we’ll naturally look at other people for clues on how to behave. This is the basis of imitation, and it’s a survival tactic. Simply said, in an environment where the world is changing, the best strategy is lots of imitation. The problem with this is we’re rarely aware of how ‘much imitation’ is necessary and plain and simple. It’s a balancing act to decide what to copy and what not.

Practice ‘Smart Stealing’

The best strategy is to ‘steal’ from different sources, ideally ‘the best’ sources outside your industry.

Examples abound of companies who have ‘stolen’ from others. Apple stole Xerox’s musical interface and mouse ideas. Facebook and MySpace stole Friendster’s social network idea. Microsoft stole Netscape’s browser idea. . It’s even happening in the Venture Capital Industry where one .

Use constraints to fuel your creativity

Quickly, think of as many white things as you can in ten seconds.  Now think of white things in your kitchen.  Did the more constrained prompt spark more ideas? Yes.

Recent research on the best approach to creating novel things says that the number one key to innovation is scarcity. In other words, constraints help you focus on what matters.

Apple knows that embracing constraints helps them focus on what matters. Google is popular for using constraints to fuel their design and development process which have resulted in ‘perceived innovations’ in user experience. The ever popular 37 Signals, maker of online business management apps, pretty much runs their business on constraints.

So, how does placing constraints to fuel creativity look like?

To find a better way to do things, stop and think!

I’ve argued before that innovation is the result of consistently trying to do something better than it’s done before, sometimes this also means that it has to be different. This simple idea is well understood but not easy to put into action because it’s very difficult for most people to think about why they do what they do and how they could do it better. Routines and habits are very very powerful!

With this in mind, one newsletter I look forward to reading every two weeks is Jeffrey Baumgartner’s JPB newsletter. The most recent one talks about the need to ‘stop and think’ before solving a problem the same way it was solved before.

A litmus test for solving a problem in a different way is when you see that problem keep coming up consistently and becomes a pattern. This is a signal that the system is stuck, a process has become rigid and is plagued by the same problems over and over again. This is an opportunity for a new order of things, for innovation!

I encourage you to read the JPB Newsletter, it has other articles in there that are also worth reading 😉

UPDATE: Mitch Ditkoff pointed me to The ultimate STOP AND THINK article on his blog that is well worth reading, very interesting indeed. Thanks Mitch 🙂

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A notebook that will help you solve your problems

jacks notebook


I’ve got a really fresh brain after this weekend because I read by , it’s my first time reading a literal business novel so it was refreshing to have a book put my visual senses to work and putting me in the story. Jack’s Notebook is essentially about a guy named Jack Huber and his friend Manny who is a professional problem solver that helps Jack get his life straight through the use of CPS (Creative problem solving) to solve his work and personal problems.


So what is CPS? It’s a technique developed by Alex Osborn who coined the term brainstorming and it basically helps you have more ideas and therefore more solutions to any problem you encounter. CPS brings order to the chaos that is solving problems, it’s a systematic process of creating lists and then making decisions. That simple!


Like business and life, the story has twists and turns and the problems that Jack faces are solved using CPS in a very simple way. This leaves you with this feeling of ‘uh that was easy!’ and I think this is really the big takeaway most people will get from the book…solving problems doesn’t have to be hard, it can be fun!


So if you’re stuck in a corner and always seem to do the same thing over and over again with the same result because you try the same old ideas then I recommend you read this book. In fact even if you think you’re pretty fly at solving problems already and don’t think you need anymore lecturing, you should read this book because most likely your brain has gone stale and need some refreshing…we all do!


Mr. Fraley has given us a notebook with all his secrets and he wants to help us solve our problems in a fun way and the plus is it’s also a great story. . Read it. Start your own notebook.


Once you’ve read it, and tell him what you think.


P.S. Thank you Mr. Fraley!