These days, we have access to a multitude of problem solving resources. When we have a problem, we could come up with limitless combinations of solutions. But, either to curb our overwhelm of information or by the limits of our own perspective, our awareness is sometimes blind to the true extent of the options available to us. I tend to blame it on a long-standing system of standardized education in which there is "only one best answer."
When solving a problem, most of us have a tendency to condense information and evaluate it against a certain set of limitations, immediately ruling out extraneous choices, weighing the remaining options, and then making a decision. But just outside this perspective, are beautiful, hidden compromises and solutions we might not have ever thought of yet, and if we are willing to extend our vision, it can open us up to new possibilities. We sometimes refer to it as "thinking outside the box."
But how can you open your perspective to see solutions you weren't aware of before? You cannot force yourself into an awareness of a certain thing. But you can search yourself for barriers that may obstruct your awareness. What restrictions do you set upon yourself by default? What parameters exist in your decision making? Are you bound by money, how others perceive your decisions, current obligations, or lack of confidence? Have you really been open and receptive to all possibilities? Or are you wearing blinders, ignoring and discrediting certain doors completely?
In the movie, "Stranger Than Fiction," Dustin Hoffman plays a quirky but wise professor whose unique problem solving perspective allows him to understand the main character's impossible plight. When he meets the main character, played by Will Ferrell, instead of recoiling in disbelief at the absurdity of his circumstances, Hoffman offers this, "Let's start with ridiculous and work backwards."
Often our fear of failure, rigidity in focusing on the one right answer, or disdain at wasting precious time keeps us from starting with ridiculous. We like to keep our perspective in a predictable place, a safe, practical place, but in doing so, often cut out completely pieces of the process we need to explore in order to truly find the best solution.
Next time you're facing a problem, give it a try. You may be surprised by what you find when you lose your fear and start with ridiculous.