31 day challenge: Turn up with more than ‘one’

optionsI’m currently reading this absolutely fantastic book called ‘The Ten Faces of Innovation’ by Tom Kelly. Even if you haven’t heard of Tom, you’ve definitely heard of the organization he works with – Ideo. I will likely do a full-fledged book review later this month, but no amount of words will do the book justice. So for now, I’ll just skip to the nugget of gold I read today.

In the early section of the book, Tom encourages the reader to build multiple prototypes. As per him, and I quote directly from the book – ‘One prototype is like having a single rabbit: it has some value, but two can be interesting, and can start you down the path to more and more. A variety of options makes possible a much more frank and positive discussion about the pros and cons of a prospective idea.’ In an example used by him, he mentions how he’d be uncomfortable replying in the negative if he came home one evening and his wife asked him – “Honey, how do I look in this dress?” Whereas, he’d be more comfortable providing a fair answer if she modeled three dresses and asked him which one he liked best. In the first case, she’s already invested in the dress and may not be pleased with a negative answer. In the second scenario, however, she is demonstrating greater openness to input and lower investment in a single piece.

It made me wonder how different work would look if multiple solutions were the new rule for my team. In most circumstances, when we detect problems, we rack our brains together for a well-thought out solution and then return to the larger team with our ‘one’ proposal. Very rarely, does our proposal paper consist of comparison with other solutions that we’d thought of during the course of our problem solving. Depending on how rational (and generous) the team feels about the proposal on that day, it is either massacred or given positive feedback. This repeats itself multiple times until the proposal is accepted or rejected altogether. Now, let’s look at a scenario where we take three solutions to the table. The reviewers are pushed to consider pros and cons of each alternative and takes everyone a step closer to formulating a real solution to the problem.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that this should become a cardinal rule for all teams across organizations. One could argue that it leads to extra investment of time & effort for what may be straightforward solutions, however, let’s try it out. Let us embark on as a 31-day challenge. For the next 31 days, we will all turn up with more than one solution for every problem no matter how big or small.

At the end of 31 days, we’ll put our heads together and decide if this works or doesn’t. If it does, under what situations does it work best? We will use our 31-day experiment to refine the concept. Who knows – we will probably have discovered the easiest hack of the year to make our workplace smarter.

You with me?

P.S: I am tempted to make the 31-day challenge a series on this blog. If you have ideas, drop me a note. This could be fun!

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