To solve impossible problems faster, be unreasonable.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Gary Hamel's Video recommended three questions to ask everyone in an organisation:
Have you been trained in innovation?
How long before they could create a prototype?
Do you feel personally responsible for innovation?
In this post I discuss the second question: How long before they could create a prototype?
This second question highlights the critical issue of having resources to do something different. Gary Hamel recommends working on a prototype and recommends freeing up 50% of available time and freeing up some money to work on the project. Maybe some businesses could do this, but I have never worked with one. All the businesses I have worked with are already pushed for resources: they don’t have enough time, money or people to do what they want.
The reality is —we don’t have enough time, money or people to do what we want. Telling us to get someone to commit 50% of their time to a project is easy in theory, but hard in practice. So, how can you get the resources to work on some of your organisations problems?
Part of our Solve Your Impossible Problem process takes advantage of little time, to make large progress. From our experience in industry, no matter how few resources we have, we can always find resources in a crisis. In a crisis, we can always find time, money and people to fix the problems. Interestingly, a Harvard article in 2000 Robert Schaffer called “Demand better Results and Get Them” has a similar insight.
So, the key to making progress is, just as in a crisis - give a group a task to complete in an unreasonable time. Why does it work? A crisis or limited time ensures coordination and this coordination eliminates inefficiency. Also a crisis or limited time forces people to only work on what is critical. Limited time produces this powerful combination — coordinating and working on critical priorities — ensuring groups make rapid progress on challenging problems, faster.
In one day, our impossible problem process:
Gets buy-in to solving the most important problem.
Produces between 30 and 150 possible solutions.
Picks just 3 solutions to work on.
After one intensive day, we recommend giving the team an impossible deadline to produce radically better results. In industries from manufacturing to financial services, this process has produced results.
So, how can you get the resources — time, money and people — to work on some of your organisations problems? Grab a group of people, lock them up for a day and then give them a challenging deadline to deliver dramatically better results.