Friday, April 04, 2003

Innovative Solutions

There are a large number of tools and techniques to help us find creative solutions to meet our needs. Many of the basic tools have to do with awareness and choice. As lack of awareness leads to habits, awareness leads to increased choice.

Needs & Strategies
A central tool from Nonviolent Communication is to differentiate needs and strategies. When we are clear about our own needs and those of others, it is easier to creatively find solutions that will meet the needs of all involved.

It does require the following realizations: (a) We have needs and then strategies to meet those needs. (b) For any need, there are are innumerable strategies that can help us meet the need. (c) Our strategies may become habitual, and (i) not meet our needs well anymore or (ii) conflict with the strategies of others. (d) Our needs and the needs of others rarely conflict, but our strategies often do. (e) We can collaboratively and creatively find solutions that will meet all our needs when we (i) are clear about our own needs and those of others, and (ii) let go of our attachment to specific strategies.

Assumptions & Rules
Bringing assumptions and rules into awareness gives us choice. Exploring our assumptions may lead us to the following realizations: (a) They are not useful in our current situation, and we can let go of them. (b) They can be modified or refined to be more useful. In the first case, we open up to a wider range of possible solutions. In the second, we focus of search for solutions.

We have an infinite number of assumptions and rules, and it may be very useful to make a habit of (a) bringing some of them into awareness, (b) explore them (their origins, how they connect to some of our other assumptions, and how they relate to cultural assumptions), (c) and play with them (reverse them, exchange them for others). Especially playing with them may yield a sense of freedom and valuable insights. If we reverse or change one of our basic assumptions, what consequences would it have? How would it open up for new possibilities? How can we apply those insights into our own life or the project we are playing with/working on.

Activity: Take one of your cherished opinions, views or strategies. Then explore some of the assumptions behind it. Which ones are they? How do they relate to your other assumptions? How do they relate to our cultural assumptions? How can they be changed (reversed, exchanged for others)? What would the consequences be of changing them in different ways? Take one assumption, or conglomerate of assumption, at a time. Note that the assumptions/rules can range from those unique to the individual to those shared among humans in different cultures (gravity, eating, breathing).

There are many benefits from generating multiple theories, ideas and/or goals. Generating multiple theories (in daily life or in science) reduces our attachment to any one of them, keeps our view fresh, and help us stay open to other theories/interpretations. Generating multiple ideas and strategies for any project similarly helps us stay flexible. Having multiple goals for any project helps us stay inspired.

See the website and books from Roger Van Oech for more ways to free our thinking.

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