Imagine if Shakespeare was designing a new kitchen gadget. Can you picture him walking around your kitchen for inspiration, perhaps he is quoting from As You Like It, quietly muttering to himself “I will forget the condition of my estate, to rejoice in yours“. Would he be rejoicing in the amount of food you have in your cupboards…wondering why you have so much extra food in your cupboards when he has only enough for the next couple of meals? Perhaps his instinct is to start cramming his pockets with as much of your food as he can whilst nobody is looking? After all, what is Shakespeare doing in your kitchen anyway? If only he had some sort of pocket lunchbox gadget he might think to himself…a new device designed to be filled with random assortments of food, keeping somehow separate whilst still being small enough to fit into ones pocket…
Okay, so the example is clearly a bit silly. But that is the point. It is designed to give us an escape from our own perspective so we can approach creative thinking from someone else’s shoes. In this case Shakespeare’s. It is also fun to try, which is a great plus for a creative thinking tool in my opinion.
Today’s post continues my series on Disrupted Thinking, with a focus on putting yourself into the shoes of others
Hall of Fame
With a hall of fame we get to choose an assortment of interesting characters and step into their shoes when we want to solve a problem from a different perspective. I’ve put together my own hall of fame below, you might like to select your own.
Notice that each character has some pretty unique characteristics, as well as a stack of quotes and phrases I can use for inspiration. In my hall of fame I have included male and female, villain and hero, artists, musicians, detectives, comedians, time lords and an airhead. With twelve diverse characters you can roll a pair of dice and choose randomly.
Take spiderman for instance:
– problem: improve the mobile phone
– spidey ideas: can I stick it to myself? will it pick up my spidey senses so I know where a crime is happening? will it colour co-ordinate with my snappy outfit?
– spidey quotes: “With great power comes great responsibility”, “I was in the neighbourhood”, “Some spiders change colors to blend into their environment. It’s a defense mechanism”
Let your mind settle on a point of inspiration. I like the whole colour co-ordination blending in thing. What about a mobile which changes colour when low on power?
You could also adapt the technique to use in a group setting, perhaps assigning a character to each of a number of flip boards around a room and having groups rotate around each one discussing how their character would approach the problem.
Michael Michalko differentiates between the use of personality traits and behaviour to imagine how another person would solve a problem (he calls this the board of directors) and the focus on quotations and words spoken by your personalities, in which case you can consult wikiquotes until you find something that resonates for the problem at hand.
Incidentally, if you choose Leonardo da Vinci as a character, this article has everything you could possible need to know for drawing inspiration from da Vinci. It has so much detail in fact, the author has proposed an entire creative problem solving framework around it. Well worth a read.
Build your own Hall of Fame
When developing your own hall of fame the first thing you’ll need is a selection of famous people, dead or alive, real or fictional. Find out a bit about each character e.g. quotes, their place in time, their personality and anything else which might help you approach a problem from their perspective. What would be important to them? What assumptions would they have? How will your problem environment influence their thinking?
Try and end up with a short script or collection of key info for each character. You should also make sure your hall is diverse, the whole point of selecting at random is that you will land in a very different perspective each time. Have fun with it.
A different approach to shifting your perspective of a problem is to consider it from the perspective of people affected byt he problem (stakeholders). For example, consider the design problem of building a more fuel efficient car. Stakeholder perspectives could include the buyer, manufacturer, distributor, petrol stations, neighbours, town planners, passengers, employers, co-workers, car park designers, and so on. For each of these there could be any number of different considerations. Choosing a few at random:
- Buyer: cost of car, fuel, road tax, and servicing. Car speed, power, size etc
- Neighbours: noise, appearance, does it fit in the carport, can they leave it outside ourhouse so burglars don’t know we’re away etc
- Co-workers: car pooling, fits in the carpark, shared running costs
Each of these can be treated as movement ideas, selected and developed. Considering road tax might lead us to create ideas around car manufacturers collaborating with government to introduce fuel efficiency considerations in road tax prices. Whilst considering the ability to leave outside the neighbours house might lead to shared refueling and the potential need to build in identification mechanisms for carport recharging solutions (to prevent strangers from recharging their electric cars in your port whilst you are away).
In Design Thinking, this is called identifying the needs and motivations of your end users.
Image from DragoArt, how to draw shakespeare step 4