To Infinity and Beyond

Until a few years ago, whenever I’ve heard a statement like “anything is possible,” or “the sky is the limit,” or something along these lines, I felt uncomfortable. Of course, many things are possible. Of course, theoretically, the sky is the limit. But what does that have to do with the concrete problem I should solve now, with these specific constraints which block so many theoretically possible solutions? How can someone seriously claim the sky is the limit when my problem seems to be closed in a few square meters with a concrete ceiling just above head level? Such statements seemed to me mocking, condescending, or just naive.

But of course, it all comes down to how you interpret such statements and, more importantly, what you are going to do with them.

Here are three aspects in which adopting such “an infinity mindset” is not only far from being naive – it could even help us find a creative solution.

Infinite Raw Material

Nothing can be produced without raw material and energy. Nothing. Not even ideas. Any idea or creative solution is built upon some raw material: things we saw, felt, experienced, or physically collected, and energy in the form of Imagination.

At the same time, most problems have inherent constraints. That’s what makes them challenging after all.

[clickToTweet tweet=”There are literally infinite resources for raw material for #creative solutions” quote=”There are literally infinite resources for raw material”]

One of the keys to coming up with creative solutions is to look for raw material. And, the more the merrier! With an Infinity Mindset, this becomes easy despite the inherent constraints, because there are literally infinite resources for raw material. The majority of them goes beyond the constraints of the problem you are about to solve.

The difficulty is adopting the Infinity Mindset because our mind tends to focus on the immediate problem domain. When we see only the problem, we don’t see infinite options. But when we realize that the solution can come from any other area as well – practically from anywhere – we start to see more and more raw material which might be relevant or might even be the key for solving our problem.

One of the examples I love using to demonstrate the notion of infinite raw material is the invention of Velcro. The inspiration for the product we are so familiar with came when its inventor returned from a hike and found that burrs were sticking to his clothes and to his dog’s fur. George De Mestral was an electrical engineer. Nothing could have been further from his main expertise than examining these burrs and seeing the potential in them. But that is exactly what he did. He used the burrs as raw material – not in the physical sense, but as inspiration, or an analogy that can be used to solve a problem from an entirely different domain.

Infinite Interactions

The realization that there is infinite raw material just waiting to be discovered is nothing less than amazing. It will open your eyes, and the world will never look the same. But believe it or not, this is just the first step.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Think of taking the raw material you find out of context” quote=”Think of taking the raw material you find out of context”]

Imagine all these pieces of raw material can also be connected in infinite ways. One of the well-known methods for coming up with creative ideas is to combine things which seems to be unrelated at first. But I prefer to use a different phrasing for the same idea. To realize the potential in surprising interactions, think of taking the raw material you find out of context.

It is not trivial to rewire our mind to take things out of context. Children do it naturally when they use the most simple things as raw material for playing in an entirely different world – in their imagination. And just like you can practice the ability to see things as raw material, you can train your mind to imagine these things in a new and surprising context.

The beautiful thing about being able to create infinite interactions is that it multiplies the infinite raw material we already have in our arsenal.

Infinite Questions

Sometimes the solution to a problem lies in the fact that the problem can be rephrased or challenged. We sometimes look for the wrong thing. And the only way to reveal that is never to stop asking questions. Don’t take anything for granted and try to challenge everything. And there are practically infinite ways to do that.

[clickToTweet tweet=”We tend to focus on finding answers and not on challenging, or refining, the problem” quote=”We tend to focus on finding answers and not on challenging, or refining, the problem”]

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting ignoring the problem you are facing or working around it by trying to change the issue instead of dealing with it. But, most of the time most of us don’t ask enough questions. We tend to focus on finding answers and not on challenging, or refining, the problem.

Consider the following simple example. Let’s say you are running some ads for your business on your favorite social platform and they just don’t deliver. You may come up with the following goal: I need my social media ads to perform better. This is indeed a valid goal, and you just might come up with some solutions. But how about challenging the assumptions at the basis of this problem? Are you using the right social platform? Is this the social platform used by my target audience? And at an even deeper level: are social media ads the right tool to approach your target audience?

These three questions might be easy to answer or they might require some thinking and research. They might not change anything in the problem definition. But, then again… they might change everything! They might guide you in a slightly different direction, or they might lead you to a new direction altogether. And all you have to do is… ask.

Think of a challenge or a problem you had to solve recently (or one you are still facing). Now, think of three questions you asked while working on it with the aim to challenge assumptions or redefine the problem. If you can’t remember asking such questions, try to think of three questions now, even if you have already solved the problem.

Critical thinking such as this is another vital key to coming up with creative solutions (even if the problem is about to change along the way). And as you can already guess… there are endless questions you can ask.

So, Are We in an Infinite Search for a Solution?

Do all these infinite dimensions mean we will never find the desired solution to the problem we are trying to solve? Are we doomed to search for a solution in this endless space?

On the contrary. We should know when to stop looking. We should acquire and refine the skill to identify the jackpot solution (or a meaningful step toward it). The search for a solution is not random, especially when you find a lead that seems to be in the right direction. But without starting with an Infinity Mindset, the chances of coming up with a creative solution are drastically lower.

If you are starting your journey with the notion of having limited raw material, limited interactions, and no challenging question to ask, the solution to your problem might elude you.

The Infinity Mindset is not an exercise in positive thinking. It is a tool that will help you see things differently and come up with some creative ideas based on non-trivial raw material, surprising interactions, and some thought-provoking questions. One of these ideas might just be the one.

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