In a recent Forbes article, Scott Berkun, author of The Myths of Innovation remarked that we often get stuck thinking that only a brilliant idea will solve a problem, and spend our energy either looking for a brilliant idea or dismiss our ability to be innovative and put the problem into the “too hard” basket. When all we need to do is solve the problem any which way we can.
Joanna Maxwell of Work in Colour has a great video entitled Unstick Your Thinking in which she shares three tips for approaching problems.
1. Get out of your head and into your body.
Take a break from thinking about the problem and do some physical activity. “Time out” can allow ideas to bubble away on the back burner without being forced.
2. Go find aliens.
Share your problem with others who may have a different perspective to you and therefore may have a solution you hadn’t considered.
3. Question your assumptions.
Are your assumptions about the problem valid, or can they be tweaked to create an opportunity?
For a few months now, I’ve been wrestling with a problem of how to balance the desires of loyal customers against the need to grow my customer base. I can’t afford to lose loyal customers, but I also need more. Just a couple of days ago I shared my problem with someone outside the business and they provided the clarity I needed. There were two problems, not one. It wasn’t an either/or situation (as I had originally thought) where I was potentially sacrificing loyal customers at the expense of acquisitions. I could achieve both outcomes by providing different offerings to each type of customer. It seems so simple in hindsight!
When did you last share a problem with an alien?
It’s been ages since my last post. I’m an organised person and I like lists. But I haven’t been organised enough to find time to write a blog post on a regular basis. And this has been annoying me.
So this week I made an effort to change that. I’ve decided not to try harder, but to try something different (for me anyway).
My latest attempt involves using Google tasks in my calendar to schedule the “important but non-urgent” stuff. Like replying to emails from people I don’t know, that are most likely to be useful in the future but aren’t right now. Like phoning the bank to sort out those pesky transaction maintenance charges. And, like writing a blog post. So, this week I tried it out.
All emails I received had to be dealt with immediately upon reading them (usually only twice a day) or added as a task to be done at another time. My task on Sunday is to write a post – read other blogs, decide what to write about etc, and most importantly getting it done – not sweat about what to write. It’s taken me a couple of hours to get this far (mostly because I have a lot of reading to catch up on), but I’ve found a whole swag of things that I’ve found interesting and will share with you in my next posts.
This plan could work!
So, how much time are you spending getting the important but non-urgent stuff done?
I’m a huge fan of Seth Godin. I like the simplicity and straightforwardness of his approach to marketing.
In a post this week Seth blogged “The usual mantra is to ‘try harder’. Trying harder is impossible when you’re already trying as hard as you can. But you can always try different.”
Which is what got me thinking about Kiwibank. In 2002 Kiwibank launched into a marketplace dominated by four bigger Australian-owned banks. But rather than compete head-on, Kiwibank looked at how it could differentiate itself.
Its primary point of difference is that it is 100% New Zealand owned; a bank that provides real value for money, that has Kiwi values at heart, and that keeps Kiwi money where it belongs—right here, in New Zealand.
And that strategy seems to have paid off. In 2009 it was named New Zealand Bank of the Year by The Banker magazine and has also been awarded best value bank by the Sunday Star Times and Canstar for the last four years. It has a customer base of 650,000 (out of a total population of 4 million) and is growing steadily.
When you’re already trying as hard as you can, what can you try differently?