Small Biz Creative Problem Solving
Small business innovation is simply this: one problem after another. It’s a gauntlet. It’s a series of hurdles you have to jump over, and lots of them. Sometimes you intuitively know what you have to do, so you adjust and go and do it. Other times, it looks like Mt. Everest — it just looks impossible. This is where many wanna be innovators, and wanna be entrepreneurs simply give up.
Don’t give up. When the going gets tough, the tough get creative. Deliberately creative.
The mountain of problems is not an obstacle, it’s an opportunity. What stops everybody else is exactly where you want to be — because if you can imagine a way around the mountain, you’ll be first to the other side. And that means everything, first in market positioning, a clear point of difference, and if you’re not too early, customers with cash in hand, waiting for you.
In order to do the impossible you need more than gut instinct and intuition, although those things are useful, really required. To solve the most complex challenges it requires a process that leverages research, then balances imagination and analysis.
Here’s your process — it’s called CPS* — and I’ll describe the six steps below here in a nutshell (and for more on this, by all means, buy, read, and study Jack’s Notebook, a business novel about creative problem solving).
1. Thinking about your insurmountable issue — what do you wish for? Make a list of wishes. Then pick one.
2. Research the living hell out of the issue — look under every rock, talk to every person, know more than anybody else about the issue. Keep track of your findings in a notebook, and/or do Mind Maps. You’re looking to discover something to help you solve your problem and better inform you as to what the issue really is.
3. Frame the issue as a question, using these starting words: In What Ways Might I….(fund my project…find a magic programmer….locate an office space, etc.). Make a long list of these “problem questions”. What you’re looking for here is a frame that is a fresh perspective.
4. Brainstorm ideas, and yes, you can do this alone if need be. If you enlist others to jam ideas learn something about how to facilitate brainstorming (most small business people do it wrong). Use your notebook, make a long list of ideas. This could take time as breakthrough ideas are not going to happen in a short visit to Starbucks. Generate a lot of ideas, you’ll know when you get to something fresh. Poke away at this all the time in short bursts. Keep reviewing your ideas and eventually one will emerge as the best possibility.
5. Refine the idea as best you can. Amp it up, wrap it up, make it more exciting to others if necessary, package it, plump it, perfume it, and then…
6. Do It Now. Make a plan and start on executing the potential solution as soon as possible. As soon as possible, like Now.
If CPS works, you’re one hurdle further along. If it doesn’t, go back to step one and try again. You know that “Jungle Plan” you’re carrying around in your hip pocket (or purse)? Time to modify, time to change, time to take action on what makes sense now — now that you’ve solved another problem.
For Chapter Four, click on this link: http://www.greggfraley.com/blog/2012/07/23/innovate-on-coq/
* CPS stands for “Creative Problem Solving” and it’s also known as the Osborn-Parnes creative problem solving process. It evolved from the work of the man who coined the term brainstorming, advertising maven, Alex Osborn. CPS is a powerful, flexible, and highly useful process for innovator’s and it’s been used by smart people for over 50 years.