I was listening to episode 682 of the Entrepreneur on Fire Podcast, where John Lee Dumas was interviewing Shane Snow. Shane has written a book called Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success. An abbreviated description from Amazon reads:
Entrepreneur and journalist Shane Snow analyzes the lives of people and companies that do incredible things in implausibly short time… One way or another, they do it like computer hackers. They employ what psychologists call “lateral thinking” to rethink convention and break “rules” that aren’t rules.
During the show, Shane gave a small story to illustrate the general idea of the kind of lateral thinking that he is espousing.
Pretend that you are driving a car on a rainy night and you’re kind of in the middle of nowhere and windshield wipers are going like crazy and you see on the side of the road three people that are standing out there miserable in the rain. You slow down and the first one you notice is a friend of yours that saved your life one time. Next to him is a little old lady with a cane who definitely can’t make it back to town on her own. And next to them is the man or woman of your dreams and this is your only shot to ever meet them. You only have one seat in your car (meaning a car with a total of two seats), who do you pick up?
John Lee Dumas suggested that he would pick up the little old lady. That is just the “military man” in him. Shane’s point was that lateral thinking “hacks” the question and finds the answer by thinking outside the box. In Shane’s solution, you give the seat to the old lady, give your keys to your friend, and stay with the love of your life.
I love that illustration. Yes, it is contrived, but it is a perfect word picture of how creative problem solvers think. The problem that most people have with the problem is that they make assumptions. In this case, you’ve assumed that you must stay with your car and that you must only save one of the three people in distress. Lateral thinking throws out those assumptions and looks for a way for “everyone to win”. In real life, 100% satisfaction certainly isn’t always possible, but you will get a lot closer by throwing out assumptions and “hacking the question”.
Great reminder for the day.