When we look at problems – what do we see? Do we see roadblocks, opportunities, or just what is not working?
The way we think about a problem obscures our ability to see anything else.
At times of difficulty, it is hard to see anything that might remotely work. Our bias is to look for a solution, but the solution is often hard to see, or even put together. We think that there should be a linear connection between a problem, and its solution. In our efforts to look for a solution, we fail consider the possible “exceptions” to the problem. In the exceptions lies the potential path to working through an impasse that we might face.
The Power of Exceptions
An exception can tell us what we were doing when the problem wasn’t happening
“What was happening, or was I doing when the problem wasn’t occurring? What was I doing differently when the problem wasn’t happening?”
An exception can point the way toward patterns in our environment that offers clues to the solution
“When have I noticed the problem not occurring, what is happening around me that is different?”
An exception may be hypothetical in nature, and help us arrive at novel ideas toward a solution
“If I was solving this problem right now, what would I be doing or experiencing?”
Using an exception helps you consider alternatives that don’t necessarily surface at first inspection. By identifying the exceptions to when a problem does not occur, we unlock new possibilities for experimenting with new solutions, ones that are not readily available. The next time, an impasse is reached, try looking at the exception to the problem. Reflect on what you find, and enact new alternatives.