Most creative solutions come from looking at the same problem in a new way; reframing by asking “What are we really trying to accomplish here?” over and over until a new insight is unlocked.
It reminds me of a story I heard about a moving truck many years ago that was being driven through Colorado. They were navigating for hours through the tough windy switchbacks and ultimately came upon a tunnel that had been bored through the mountain side. The driver knew it was going to be a really tight clearance but was pretty sure they would fit…until the lovely sound of metal meeting stone brought the truck to a sudden stop. The truck was stuck. Just a few inches from slipping through, but this being one of those situations where close doesn’t cut it.
If you’ve ever driven through one of these tunnels you know they are not very wide. The truck was now completely blocking one lane and mostly blocking the other direction…bringing traffic to a grinding halt.
Everyone starting getting out of their cars throwing out suggestions: cut off the top of the truck with a blow torch (would take too long); chisel the concrete away from the truck and have it back up (too many cars to get turned around); blow out the ceiling of the entire tunnel so it will fit through (time, cost, structural integrity, not so much).
For what seemed like hours everyone stood there coming up with ideas, none of which could get the truck dislodged and open up traffic.
None until a little 9 year old girl came up and tugged on the coat of one of the highway workers. After being brushed aside a couple times, she remained insistent until finally getting his attention.
“What if we let some air out of the tires to lower the truck the few inches it needs to get through?”
In just a few minutes the truck was back on the road through the tunnel, navigating more windy switchbacks…but being more mindful of the height restrictions.
Everyone saw the problem as the tunnel being too low or the truck being too tall but did not think about what they were really trying to accomplish. How can we make the truck lower than the tunnel?
Often times the simplest solution is the best and most elegant one but that can only be achieved when you truly understand what is trying to be accomplished.
Where are you facing a situation where you feel stuck, banging your head against a wall?
How might you “let some air out of the tires” to achieve what you are really trying to accomplish in a new and different way?