ITB #5: How to find options in no-win scenarios

This week's issue of JDM's weekly newsletter: how you can use "we can if" thinking to get yourself out of a jam!

kirk I don't believe in a no-win scenario

What the hell, I'll confess my shame by opening this newsletter with a quote from Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the Starship Enterprise: “I don’t believe in no-win scenarios.”

This week, let's talk about how you can uncover hidden possibilities in what seem like no-win scenarios with "we can if" thinking.

It's not a gimmick. We too often leave many paths completely unexplored because our internal filter prematurely tells us they aren't doable.

By shifting from a mindset of "we can't" to "we can if", we can find, we discover there are a multitude of available options and some interesting (and completely unexpected) ways to get there.

Unfortunately… this is easier said than done. But I've got a three-step process for you.

Let's get to work.

There are six "we can if" possibilities.

Take any situation that feels no-win, where you’d say “we can’t”, and start a sentence with “we can if”:

  • We can if… we add…

  • We can if… we remove or substitute…

  • We can if… we mix together…

  • We can if… we think of it as…

  • We can if… we access other people to…

  • We can if… we resource or fund it with…

These six options are designed to get around our built-in filters by ignoring the "how" question — that comes later. We focus first on quantity, then on quality. Divergent thinking before convergent thinking.

Here's how you can put it in practice, step by step:

Step 1: Use “we can if” to identify a bunch of potential paths.

This is the hardest part, because our internal critic has already suppressed it. Our mind has already told us “no”, but we can use the six prompts above to push through. The goal is quantity over quality.

As an example, perhaps we can get out of the quagmire if we fund it with more money.

Step 2: Ideate around how each potential path could work.

The biggest mistake you can make here is to re-activate that internal critic and say “no, it’s not possible”. But we’re still ideating here. We’re still on quantity over quality.

Let’s continue with the funding example. It would be easy to say, “but we don’t have money”, and then nix the idea. But take a moment to go through the all the ways you can acquire money. You can…

  • Get sales

  • Borrow it

  • Trade it for equity

  • Steal it

  • Print it (if you’re government)

Hopefully some of those are off the table for you. For the remaining options, what would a couple of ideas for each look like?

Quantity over quality.

Step 3: Now, filter down to pick the most efficient option.

You're almost there! You've got a bunch of options. The "quantity" part is done. Now, it's time for "quality".

Efficiency, as I'm using it here, is a measure of impact and challenge. You can check out this matrix I created to get a visual representation.

Which of the options you surfaced would be both really impactful and would be relatively low challenge to implement?

That's where you make your next move.

And that's it! In three steps, we've gone from a no-win scenario to a viable plan of attack. And it works almost every time.

Lastly, elephant in the room… I know what you're thinking, and you're right — Jean-Luc Picard was the better captain, and we all know it.

That's all for this week's newsletter: one tip on how to be a better innovator.

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See you again next week!


Published 7 months ago

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