7. Getting Unstuck: Generating Ideas that Can Move You Forward with Esmilda Abreu

You or your organization are stuck. How do you break free and come up with new ideas to help you move forward?

In this episode, Dr. Esmilda Abreu, Getting Unstuck's producer, interviews me and my podcast co-host, Kirsten Richert, to share a few systematic methods for helping teams and individuals generate break-through ideas.

Listen for:

One of the fixedness-breaking processes to which Kirsten alluded is called “Function Follows Form.” Instead of thinking about customer needs to start, this process has you manipulate an aspect of a product, service or process to come up with potential new features or uses called “Virtual Products.” You then look at those “virtual products” to see how customers might use and benefit from them. In essence, this process turns the typical way most people innovate – identify customer needs > satisfying of needs – on its head.

One of the fixedness-breaking processes to which Kirsten alluded is called “Function Follows Form.” Instead of thinking about customer needs to start, this process has you manipulate an aspect of a product, service or process to come up with potential new features or uses called “Virtual Products.” You then look at those “virtual products” to see how customers might use and benefit from them. In essence, this process turns the typical way most people innovate – identify customer needs > satisfying of needs – on its head.

• What you need to do to ensure personal learning and, hint, it’s not just experiencing something new.

• How being vulnerable actually helps you understand what’s standing in your way.

• How Kirsten follows six key practices to set up and execute an effective innovation session.

  1. Get diverse thinkers in the room

  2. Break fixedness

  3. Deliberately play with the component pieces of a product, service or process to make new connections

  4. To evaluate new thinking, ask “What could be the benefit of ‘this’?” and notice what pops

  5. Massage a new idea to make it more do-able

  6. Make a list of ideas then pick several experiments to test them

• How I coach Esmilda to adopt multiple perspectives on a personal issue where she previously only held one.

After listening to the episode:

  1. Identify a situation / problem / issue that you need to resolve so as to move forward toward your goal.

    • What is your current – and often constraining – perspective on that situation?

    • To explore some additional perspectives, pick any activity you like to engage in; any object you see in your current location; or a place or point in time, – e.g., a season, holiday or hour – and described its attributes or theme.

    • Then relook at the problem through the lens of those attributes, i.e. “If I were to embody the new attributes, what new perspective might I have on the situation?”

      Repeat another 6-7 times until you have a rich array of perspectives and attributes.

    • Then ask, “Which one of the perspectives or perspectives – it’s OK to combine elements – interests me?” What makes it / them appealing?

    • What action could you take associated with those perspectives?

    • What are you willing to commit to (Say “Yes!” to) and not commit to (Say “No!” to).

  2. Figure out a problem for which you want to generate ideas. Get together with three other people who think differently from you. Schedule 30 minutes to play. Create a component list based on the elements in your existing situation. Have each person write down ideas that come to them based on thinking about each component as a separate element. Compare lists and merge like ideas. See what you have at the end of 30 minutes.


Jeff Ikler