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The Recursive Creative Challenge Technique

Arrow chasing tailThe Creative Challenge was covered in another article, which was all about finding problems via examination of existing solutions are solving and then coming up with alternative solutions.

With the simple creative challenge you ask the why’ question only in the first step, and then immediately go on to extract the underlying problem and alternative solutions.

The problem with simplistic approach is that either 1) The problem that you are solving isn’t the root problem -or- 2) You may be limiting the number of possible solutions

The process

The process is almost identical except that I’ve inserted a new step 3 into the process, another one that asks ‘why’:

  1. Existing Solution Analysis: Focus on an object or existing solution of interest and simply ask ‘why does this exist?’
  2. Initial Problem Discovery:Reverse the question to part 1 to discover the problem the existing solution solves
  3. Problem Analysis and Discovery:Ask ‘why’ is this a problem, and extract another problem. Loop back to step 3 till root is found or number of problems is adequate.
  4. Alternate Solution Construction*: Determine an alternate way of solving the discovered problems of interest

Notice that I’ve injected a new step 3 into the mix and slightly altered step 4 so that it covers the analysis of multiple discovered problems, not just the single problem that is present in the classic creative challenge.

I won’t go into detail in steps one and two since I already covered them in a previous article, but for a refresher on those steps check out the previous article covering the Creative Challenge Technique.

Step 3: Problem Analysis

In this step we start with the initial problem discovered from step 2 and ask why is it a problem. We then analyze that problem and repeat the step. The basic idea here is to keep asking why until you have either gotten to what you consider a root problem or you have enough problems that you think will be fruitful in letting you create solutions.

Step 4: Alternative Solution Construction

As mentioned, this is nearly identical to the solution construction step of the classic creative challenge, except you are considering the multiple problems discovered from the previous step, not just one.

An Example

The best way to understand all of this is through reworking of an example from part 3 which arrived at only a single problem.

Step 1: Existing solution analysis
So the guitar won’t fall over when we aren’t playing it

Step 2: Initial problem discovery
Guitars fall over without something holding them up

Step 3: Problem analysis and discovery
Why is it undesirable to have guitars fall over?
Because guitars are fragile

Why are guitars fragile?
Because they have knobs and thin strings

Why do guitars have knobs and thin strings?
Because that’s just how they’ve always been made

Let’s stop right here. I’ve put the newly discovered problems in bold. I won’t do a full brainstorm for coming up with solutions to these new problems but you can see that the underlying assumption that guitars have to have knobs and thin strings may not even be valid – there are probably many ways of creating something you’d consider a guitar and have it avoid certain classic aspects of being a guitar.

Also notice the last answer I gave was ‘that’s just how they’ve always been made’ – that’s a classic cop-out and a perfect example of how we can limit our thinking by accepting the world that’s been presented to us ‘as it’.

You can see how powerful this technique is. Just by examining a simple existing solution and then taking the time to the question ‘why’ a few times, we uncovered three brand new problems. With more work we could potentially come up with some really interesting solutions too.