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Last updated: June 2017
Some problems are so hard, they have no solutions.
If you have been struggling for a long time to solve a particular problem, ask yourself the following questions:
“What would definitely work, if only I were allowed to do it?”
Then, for each of the answers, ask
“What’s preventing me from doing that? What would have to give?”
The questions are useful because they prompt you to tackle your problem in reverse. They challenge you to remove constraints. And some problems need that; some problems are literally unsolvable because of their constraints. In such cases, you don’t need a smarter solution; you need a simpler problem. You need to break rules and norms. You need to make things easier for yourself.
The questions are also useful for a second reason: winning solutions are hard to come by. By starting with a definite, obvious solution, you solve the most difficult part. The biggest bottleneck in most businesses, for example, is making something that a lot of people desperately want. If you begin with something that people definitely would want, you have solved the biggest bottleneck. Then, you just need to find a way to make the solution acceptable.
How could a company penetrate Microsoft and Apple’s stranglehold on the laptop market? An obvious solution would be to create a fast, easy-to-use laptop that costs a fraction of the price. But something would have to give. By removing local storage and processing power, and running only a browser, Google’s team came up with the Chromebook.
How could a new airline beat the monopoly of the incumbents? An obvious solution would be to sell flights at a fraction of the price. But something would have to give. By removing almost every feature that was traditionally included in the ticket price, Ryanair became Europe’s largest carrier.
In the examples above, the companies “cheated” by choosing a goal that would work, and then allowing themselves to remove the traditional constraints of their industries.
We find that the questions work well with our clients, whose constraints are often self-imposed. Once we discover what the clients’ visitors would love, we get great breakthroughs by challenging the clients’ objections to providing those features. It’s easier to change a company policy than it is to change what the visitors want.
Is there something that would definitely work for your business—something that would hugely grow your sales—if only you allowed yourself to do it?
What’s preventing you? What would have to give?
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