Turning Fantasy Into Reality

Impossible ideas become practical solutions in this brainstorming technique.

Diana Lillicrap 10.21.2014

Need help solving a problem in a truly innovative way? Here’s a creative tactic to help you fantasize about impossible ways to address your challenge. And then turn those impossible ideas into practical solutions.

Forget what you think you know

One of my favorite graduate school classes was statistics. I expected the class to be focused on number crunching and analytical data tracking. But to my delight, it turned out to be more like a philosophy class that explored human nature and our tendencies to make predictions based on past experiences. This is a common and wrong presumption. Just because something was one way in the past does not mean it will be (or needs to be) the same way in the future. Recognizing that the future will be different is where true innovation occurs.

There’s a lot of value in being able to image a world where constraints don’t exist. It allows us to break out of old patterns and see new possibilities for the future that are not based on our past experiences. So how do you apply this fantasy world to your problem or project? Here’s a technique adapted from advice given by Michael Michalko in “Cracking Creativity.”

A team exercise

Once you’ve defined your problem, break your team into three groups. Provide each group with one of the following questions.

  1. What is impossible to do today, but if it were possible, would change the nature of the problem forever?
  2. What would I do if I had all the resources (time, money, people, etc.) I could possibly need to solve this problem?
  3. If I were a genie with powers and could accomplish anything I wished, how would I handle this problem?

Each team reviews their question and writes an answer to their question on a piece of paper. Then, the paper is passed to another team to write an immediate and specific action that could be taken today to work toward the idea or answer that was written. Continue passing the papers until each team has had a chance to provide ideas and actions for each question and series of answers. When you are finished, discuss and evaluate all the ideas that have been proposed.

By challenging ourselves to assume that the future can and will be different, we are free to discover what others may never see—a world of possibilities that can be made into reality.

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