orange segments photo Photo by Sam Droege [CC]

Most of us are trained to think in a linear way within the confines of our subject-matter specialisations. Where the variables are constrained (ie when our jobs are more tightly defined, and where the outside world is not changing too much too quickly) this has served us well. As we take on more diverse challenges, this way of thinking can be less effective at producing diverse outcomes.

Seeking answers by drawing parallels with completely unrelated objects and situations is a useful way to break out of the established moulds.

The next time you are faced with a challenge, pick a random object or situation that is completely unrelated to it. How can the traits of this object or situation present solutions to your current problem?

To make this successful, you need to practice suspending or deferring judgement. You need to be able to go with the flow of thought and play with the possibilities of the moment.

How can an orange offer solutions to a product differentiation problem? The refreshing bitter scent of an orange being peeled – perhaps smell could be a differentiator? Perhaps creating a service that induces that sense of wake-up spritz feeling? And orange has segments. What if the differentiation problem is one of segmentation - what could another segment look like?

And so on…