Minding the gap: Creative problem-finding

[really_simple_share]When you look at a glass of liquid, do you ask yourself whether the glass is half full or half empty? Supposedly, the people who see it as half full are optimists, and the ‘half empty’ people are pessimists. But there’s another way to look at it: why is there a gap and how can it be filled?

It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention. But frequently, we are so close to a problem that we can’t see that there is a problem, much less how to solve it effectively. As I discussed in my earlier blogs (“Facing the Blank Page” part 1 & part 2), preconceived “rules” and/or any pressures we’re experiencing at the time can make it impossible for us to see the most creative solution to the problem at hand, or even to see that the situation is problematic at all.

Being able to spot the gap—to see where the current way of doing things comes up short—is the key to innovation. It’s also the key to connecting with people. When you can see and understand a gap that someone else is experiencing (perhaps even better than they can see and articulate it themselves), you become very valuable to that person. Understanding the gap another is experiencing is often necessary for making a sale, and is certainly key to delivering a creative solution to their problem.

Another interesting way to look at this kind of creativity is to consider niche marketing. Oftentimes, a hobbyist will invent a new tool for accomplishing a particular task. Now, people may have been enjoying the hobby for years without ever considering that a new piece of equipment might be needed. Then this hobbyist comes along and makes one, markets it, and it sells like gangbusters! Why? Because one person tinkering in a basement thought, “There must be a better way to do this!” And other hobbyists, who didn’t even know they had a gap, saw this new invention and said, “Wow! This is perfect for that!”

The hobbyist/inventor didn’t know there were any specific rules for how to go about solving the problem and wasn’t under any particular pressure to come up with a solution. In fact, the problem at hand was never even considered to be a problem. It was just an inconvenience that one person with a bit of ingenuity decided could be easier to do. When you look at it that way, business—and life in general—is chock full of such inconveniences. These gaps all have ways of being solved. But it takes a creative mindset, an absence of pressure, and a willingness to ignore the “rules” to find the best, most innovative solutions.

Seeing the “gap” doesn’t by itself create the solution, but it creates an important inspiration for finding a solution, and narrows the focus for where to look for—or where to aim—the solution.

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