“Entrepreneurs see solutions, where others see obstacles. What problem can you solve?” asks Geri Stengel in a Forbes article this week about two women marine biologists turned entrepreneurs.
Shimrit Perkol-Finkel and Ido Sella have a brilliant idea to create eco concrete for use in breakwaters to enhance both the wave softening properties of the structures and support the local ecology. You can read more about their work here.
The important questions you need to ask yourself though are:
- What obstacles am I experiencing?
- How can I look at them from a completely different perspective?
I like the way Napoleon Hill used his invisible counselors to gain perspective on problems. He wrote the problem on a piece of paper and set it in the center of a table. Then he moved from chair to chair imagining how each of these people might look at the problem. The counselors he brought to these meetings were people, living and dead, that he respected for strength in one area or another–Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Luther Burbank, even Napoleon Bonaparte.
The reasons I love this exercise are many. First, Hill is using his imagination to change his perspective by asking how someone he knows well or studies would look at the same situation. This is brilliant because so often when faced with a problem we have trouble seeing beyond our own view it. Rather than attempting to force yourself to be more “open minded” by using your imagination to look at it through another’s eyes, a door can be opened that otherwise could not. I like to use women like Marianne Williamson, Oprah Winfrey, and my grandmother — Kathryn Bitting, who was an amazingly compassionate and strong woman.
Another key to Hill’s approach is writing the problem on a piece of paper and putting it in the center of a table. By doing this you will be getting the problem out of your head and making it separate from you. Sometimes I write a few pages on the depth and breadth of the problem and all its nuances. It helps me process it, and it helps me look at the problem more objectively once I have both expressed it fully and put it on the table to look at from a distance.
The last important aspect of this problem solving tool is the idea of movement. By moving from chair to chair you are physically sending signals to your brain and your subconscious can help you solve the problem, not just the conscious reasoning faculties you have been using in the struggle all this time. I believe this is why I get so many great ideas in the shower, in the car and when I take walks. It is the moving away from the problem and engaging my body that actually allows fresh ideas to come through.
The first time I heard Hill’s problem solving approach with invisible counselors I felt it was pretty silly. It might sound silly to you, too. But you will be surprised at how effective it is to improve your ability to see things from many perspectives. Even if you pick flamboyant personalities that you might not agree with, imagining their perspective might loosen you up to find the solution that turns into your million dollar answer.