WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW THE ANSWER, BUILD
/ by Darwin Antipolo / 7/2/2024
I’ve seen this all too often. Participants in a workshop would stare at a challenge or provocation, not knowing how to proceed. You can see their frustration in their faces, seemingly racking their brains for the “right” solution.
We’ve all seen and been there.
But what if, instead of searching for the answer, we decided to build it? What if we approached problems with a playful, experimental mindset? Rather than seeing dead-ends, we saw opportunities to create.
This mindset shift can unlock creativity and lead to innovative solutions. Here are three group structures for building your way to the answer:
➡ 𝐃𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐠𝐧 𝐒𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐬
Popularized by Google Ventures and brought to the 'mass' by AJ&Smarts provide a structured 5-day (or 3-day) framework for moving from problem to prototype. I like bringing cross-functional teams together to map the challenge, sketch solutions, decide on the best idea, and build a realistic model to test. The hands-on process brings innovative ideas and brings team alignment much faster than the blah-blahs we dread.
➡ 𝐌𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐌𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐢𝐧𝐠
Sometimes our linear thinking prevents us from connecting the dots.I personally love mind mapping as it provides a freewheeling way to generate ideas and make associations. Using pen and paper or online tools like MindMeister (love this), you can create a spider web of concepts radiating from a central node. I lean towards adding images and colors to spark mental connections than just text. @MindMapping reveals relationships and shows patterns, showing what is emergent which I look for.
➡ 𝐋𝐞𝐠𝐨 𝐒𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐏𝐥𝐚𝐲
Of course, this method, this facilitation technique, is a good one for creative collaboration and problem-solving. Participants build lego models representing their ideas, then discuss and refine them together. The hands-on activity engages, while the physical artifacts enable clearer communication. Some say it’s all about the model, but its the metaphors and visualization that generate unexpected insights. #LegoSeriousPlay
The connective thread with these structures is their bias toward action over deliberation. When we don’t know the answer, our natural impulse may be to stall. But the rarest of creative insights is often just one build away. The act of building generates momentum. It sparks new possibilities where once there were dead ends.
So the next time you face a daunting challenge with no solution in sight, don’t retreat into analysis paralysis. Grab some Lego, fire up a mind map, or kick off a sprint. Let the creative play begin and build your way to that elusive ‘answer’.