Have you asked your team to create a problem for you? Try it…

Sinking car

“What!? As if we don’t have enough problems already!”

That’s your first reaction, I guess. But what if we creatively use “problem creation” to solve the business problems we all set out to solve in the first place?

Strange as it sounds, this technique can often be useful for solving complex problems which teams get stuck and run out of fresh ideas for solutions. In practice, this is not new. Imagine for a moment, you are a security consultant designing a security system, instead of getting the team to think of ways to keep the intruders out, wouldn’t you try to get ask your team this, “Imagine you are the intruder, think of ways you can break in.” And to add, “Be as creative as you can!”

We had a workshop with several HR professionals recently who were facing the challenge of recruiting and retaining talent. So instead of posing the typical question of “What could you do to improve employee engagement?”, we asked,

“Can you think of ways to make employees leave?”

After the shocked looks, “Are you crazy?” looks and laughter, they got to work. The results: “Send out constant memos to remind employees of HR policies”,”Be arrogant and be god-like”, “Go by the book” were some of the responses we received. We then asked if they have encountered such experiences in the office or at any point in their careers. The responses ranged from the deep thought look to slight nodding to the “a-ha moment” look.

So why use this technique? Here’s three reasons:

  1. It encourages open and creative thinking
  2. It is less stressful. (People get stressed in thinking of solutions because they want the solutions to work.)
  3. It’s fun!

Apart from the HR workshop above, other workshop questions we have posed include:

  • “How do you get rid of your customers?”
  • “You’ve been planted here by your competitor, what could you do to sabotage your company?”
  • “Come up with the worst marketing message for your product”

Be creative in framing your questions to solve a problem. You’ll be surprised that sometimes in creating a problem, you find new ways to solve it.