Find New Perspectives to Solve Problems
When Orville and Wilbur Wright sought to put people in flight, they were actually latecomers to the field of contenders — inventors in Europe and North America had worked in earnest on design and construction for a flying machine several decades before the Wright brothers’ attempts on the Carolina coast.
Many of the other challengers had more-formal education, experience and resources than they did, but the Wrights brought something inimitable and invaluable to the equation: a fresh perspective.
Before the Wrights, would-be pilots looked at flying in terms of brute force. What was needed, they claimed, was simply the power to put a vehicle up in the air and sustain it in flight, but they gave little thought as to how the plane would actually be controlled. This resulted in some spectacular crashes, but nothing that could be accurately called flying.
Enter the Wright brothers, Wilbur in particular. They too had their share of crashes, but they learned from them and changed their designs accordingly.
Wilbur also spent significant amounts of time observing birds in flight, and he noticed they sometimes “tipped” their wings to one side or another to gain balance and adjust to the differences in the lifting forces caused by the air around them.
Thus, he realized early on that the problem wasn’t one of power but of novel concepts such as lift and drag.
The rest is history, of course, but the lessons don’t have to stay in the past — they can be applied to current and future problems, as well.
Here are a few problem-solving pointers for the project managers, networking engineers, applications developers and IT professionals out there who face an obstacle that they just can’t seem to hurdle.
- Challenge Everything. Once the slogan for a video game console, in this context, “challenge everything” refers to critical thinking. Don’t always accept the conventional wisdom, especially when others are using the same methods and failing. Think of new ways to do things and try them as often as your time and budgetary constraints allow.
- Ask Others. This doesn’t refer solely to experts in the field. Remember: Sometimes the freshest perspective is that of someone who hasn’t had any exposure to the subject matter. These people approach the situation without any kind of orthodox or prejudicial constraints on their thinking, so they’ll probably consider more options. Many of their conclusions might be wrong, but if they bring just a little bit of insight, it could help out in a big way.
- Study Other Great Minds. For inspiration in innovation, look to the lives of the great geniuses. The Wright brothers are but one example — you also could study the life of Thomas Alva Edison, who almost single-handedly managed to out-invent the rest of the world while he was alive, or George Washington Carver, who transformed agriculture into a science. Who knows? One day you might end up in this pantheon of innovators.