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Moving From “I Can’t” to “What if”

Posted in Design Thinking, Innovation, and Leadership

In Mona Patel’s TED Talk, SeeProblems as Opportunity, she explains how to shift your attitude from “ICan’t” to “I Can” by asking yourself “What if?”

We all get stuck sometimes when looking for solutions. It can seem overwhelming when you think of all the obstacles in your way. And the more you think about the obstacles, the more overwhelming the problem becomes, and you find yourself saying “I can’t solve this.”

“I can’t” can stop you in your tracks. It can stop you from accomplishing your goals. It can stop progress for a better tomorrow.

Fortunately, there is a way out of “I can’t.” First, you have to recognize that you hit that wall. That you are stuck and cannot think of anything other than the obstacles. Once you recognized that you are stuck, you can step back, stop thinking about obstacles and shift your focus to thinking about “What if.”

“What if” will liberate you. Forget about the obstacles and grant yourself the freedom to think about the crazy ideas possible. No idea is too crazy. Explore as many crazy ideas as you can. You will find that somewhere in crazy are solutions.

After generating all your ideas, the next step is determined which ideas are best. Patel suggests that you filter ideas through this funnel:

You will be surprised how little time this take. In fact, I encourage you to limit your brainstorming time to a few minutes. The pressure of time will force you to think about more ideas without the filter of overthinking them. Your intuition is your best friends when it comes to generating ideas. Trust it.

  1. Do you love this idea?
  2. Will you pay for it?
  3. Will people use it?
  4. Is it easy?

If you don’t love your idea, then don’t do it. It is hard enough to follow through on the ideas that we do love. If you don’t love it then you there is low probability that you do it (and probably shouldn’t – trust your intuition).

Does your idea solve a market problem that people will pay for… and use? Is your solution desirable, viable and feasible?

Is your solution easy to adopt? Can you make it easy? You may want to ask “What if” to generate some ideas on how to make it easy.

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