February 13

You’re stuck and you can’t see a path forward. You’ve tried everything you know to do, but that brilliant breakthrough still eludes you. What do you do now?

One effective method that I’ve used with teams is to simply ask “Where have we seen something like this before?” It doesn’t have to be the exact same problem—it certainly won’t be—but it should be something that is similar or parallel. It could be an innovation in a completely different industry, something you experienced at a previous job, or something from a book you read or a magazine article you skimmed. What does this problem remind you of?

The reason this is powerful is because it causes you to examine the problem from a higher perspective. Instead of thinking exclusively about this problem as existing in one place and time, you begin thinking about categories of problems in these kinds of places. You begin looking for patterns and connecting larger networks of ideas. You are thinking systemically rather than functionally.

When you are stuck, consider a similar or sympathetic problem you’ve solved or encountered in the past and how it might apply to the one you’re working on.

To spark ideas, compare your current situation to a past one.

What similar problem compares to the one you’re solving now?

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