Finding better solutions by thinking inside the box
In my previous post, I talked about how The journey is more important than the destination, it is only by experiencing can we learn how to overcome obstacles. In this post, I will teach you a practical method to finding solutions while on your journey. I will also talk about going on an adventure where you will enjoy having sex with random women with large mammary glands; I also will provide graphic details of these sexual trysts. Sex sells. Ok, I lied to you, but you can use the information from this post on how to increase your chances of having sex with women with large mammary glands if you desire, or you can use it to improve your odds of success in all of your endeavors. Learning how to overcome obstacles comes from thinking inside the box.
People will repeat things that sound good, even if they defy logic. A friend asks me for help with a problem, I instinctively reply, we need to think outside the box. That feels good; it conjures up images of a freethinker, a rebel, someone who isn’t controlled by the system. As Dan Ariely the author of Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions the only thing predictable about human beings is we are irrational. After giving that advice, I would then find a solution by thinking inside the box.
Every time I had a problem, first I would make a list of all the resources available, this list would also include abilities. Then I would figure out how to combine these items or abilities to form a solution. It is the same method used by the NASA engineers in the movie Apollo 13 to find a way to rescue the stranded astronauts. Why does thinking inside the box work better than thinking outside the box?
The answer is the human mind likes to frame things. I talk a lot about framing and reframing. Here is an example of why framing works. First, make a list of all objects that you can think of that are the color white. Now, make a list of all items in your refrigerator that are white. Possibly the second list might be longer, even though the are fewer items in your fridge that are white compared to the entire universe. Regardless you discovered that it was a lot easier to compile the second list, that is because you had a frame, you could picture the items in your fridge.
Where did I get the brilliant idea I should think inside the box? Like all ideas, I stole it, in this case from the book Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results, where did he get his brilliant idea? Why he stole it also. The question then, is how do we create new ideas?
There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.
There are not more than five primary colors, yet in combination, they produce more hues than can ever be seen.
There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of
them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted.
In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack–the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers.
The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn. It is like moving in a circle–you never come to an end. Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination?
The Art Of War by Sun Tzu
The idea of combining old concepts together to create new ideas is not a new idea. Sun Tzu, 2500 years ago, gives examples of this. The principles of warfare in his book can be combined to create infinite combinations of new ideas. The things required for a solution are usually in the immediate area; that is why when you hear of a good new idea, you kick yourself and say why did I think of it? Often the ideas or inventions which have the biggest impact on our lives are quite simple, here are some examples.
Wheels on a suitcase - instead of carrying your suitcase, put wheels on it and pull it. Suitcases and trunks have existed for hundreds of years, wheels for thousands of years, yet it is a modern invention.
Iced tea - combine tea with ice. Nestle makes billions distributing this product around the world.
motorcycle - have an internal combustion engine power a bicycle.
Look around you, see how items or ideas were created from other ideas. But when combining ideas, you should be aware of this.
Despite being past middle age, I still enjoy playing in puddles. Society frowns upon adults who behave like children. The key is discretion if caught come up with a good explanation. Let’s play in puddles and see if we can learn something. All you need is a handful of pebbles, all approximately the same size and of course a pool of water.
Drop one pebble into the puddle, observe the ripples created. After the ripples have subsided, drop two rocks simultaneously into the pool approximately a foot apart, later you can experiment with the distance. Observe how the ripples collide, you should see a standing wave where its height is greater than the sum of the two waves. At the same time, you will observe a stationary trough where the combination of the ripples cancels out. You can experiment with different numbers of pebbles etc.
The point of the experiment is to show the total does not always equal the sum of the parts. It can be greater than or less than. It is self-evident why one would want more significant effect but why would you want to have a lesser effect?
Nitroglycerin was explosive, which is more powerful than gunpowder, much cheaper to manufacture. It just requires glycerine, which is a byproduct of soap manufacture and nitric acid. Unfortunately, it is very unstable; the slightest disturbance can set it off. Albert Noble discovered by mixing nitroglycerin with sawdust it became stable, this invention became known as Dynamite. The ripples in the water are similar to combining old ideas to create new ideas. The combination can either intensify or diminish their effect. So how do we go about creating new ideas scientifically?
The difference between an artisan and an engineer is an artisan relies on his experience which is information stored in his subconscious, by contrast, an engineer uses scientific principles. An example of an artisan is an adverting copywriter who was asked how did he get new ideas? He stated. First I learn everything about the product I am going to promote, go for a walk, have a martini. Meanwhile, my subconscious will be digesting all of the information about the product. All of a sudden out pops a new idea. Unfortunately, this doesn’t provide someone who wants to learn how to create new ideas with useful information. Are there scientific principles which can be used to combine ideas together to create new ideas?
Roni Horowitz and Jacob Goldenberg studied innovative engineering solutions to find out if they followed a set of core principles. First, they discovered that they were in the box solutions, involving thinking similar to the Apollo 13 solution. Second, they found that the items required for the solution were within the immediate area. And most importantly they discovered they followed a basic set of operations. They describe how to apply these operations in their book Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results.
The basic operations required to build new ideas are subtraction, division, multiplication, task unification, attribute dependency and contradiction, being a new field of study, possible there are more operations to be discovered. The authors do not mention addition; it is implied. I will give a brief describe and example of each technique.
This method involves breaking taking an item and breaking it down into its primary components. Then seeing which parts you can remove without reducing functionality.
An example of this is the Sony Walkman. Before the invention of the Walkman, Sony manufactured portable cassette players. Initially, people used portable cassette players for recording dictation or recording a meeting then playing it back. Distributing music on cassettes changed how people used portable cassette players. Sony saw a new market and wanted to design a mobile device to play music; they then looked at what functionality wasn’t needed. The speaker and recording ability are not required to play music; removing them resulted in a smaller and cheaper product. Kiss, keep it simple stupid.
Here you take a current item and attempt to split its functionality into separate parts. An example of this is modern food processing units for the kitchen. Originally you had separate kitchen appliances like a beater, blender, coffee grinder etc. A food processing unit has the electric motor separated from the attachments. The electric motor is the major cost of the appliance, this means you get more functionality at a lower price. At the same time, the device takes a lot less storage space.
Earlier I talked about how steam engines pumped water into a dam which then was used to power watermills. As William Rosen shows in The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention, James Watt invented the steam engine to pump water from coal mines. Subconsciously, people associated steam engines with water pumps. Separating the steam engine from the water pump resulted in a device which could transform heat into mechanical energy. The steam engine then could be used to power textile mills, ships, etc.
A device doesn’t have to be complicated to have a tremendous impact on society. This device saves people time every day, improves personal hygiene and possibly reduced the murder rate. The invention I am talking about is the simple eating fork. Until the 17th century, most Europeans used only knives and spoons for eating. All knives had sharp points. First, one cut the meat, then using the point they skewered the meat and brought it to their mouth. An eating fork is a handle with multiple points attached to it. It increased personal hygiene since it decreased the chances of the meat falling on the floor. It also made eating safer, sticking sharp pointy objects into your mouth is hazardous.
As Steven Pinker shows in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined the fork might have decreased violence in Europe. Eating was accompanied by drinking beer or wine. If they consumed too much alcohol, tempers would flair, two men having close at hand sharp daggers isn’t a safe situation. The fork allowed knives used for eating to have their points dulled. It then became socially unacceptable to bring your sharp knife to the local pub or inn to hack off chunks of meat while eating and drinking. When violence broke out there chance of a fatal injury decreased.
This is combining two seemly unrelated items into one. An example of this is Google using captchas to decode house numbers. The purpose of a captcha was to ensure a visitor to a website is human. To test if the visitor is human, give the visitor a meaningless task which only humans can perform. Why not make the task meaningful ? Captcha are now used to complete tasks like classifying photos, decoding house numbers etc.
With task unification, you are completing several tasks for the cost of one.
With this technique, two attributes which are usually independent are linked together. An example in nature is the chameleon, the color of the chameleon is linked to the environment. Less obvious are cups or glasses which change color depending on the temperature of their contents. For children’s cups, they are just amusing toys but the idea could be used for practical purposes. In my previous post The journey is more important than the destination, I talked about making lollipops. A sugar water mixture has to be heated to a precise temperature and then poured into molds. The means checking the candy thermometer regularly. It is quicker and easier to see a color change. A sauce pan where you could set when it changes color based on a certain temperature could be useful.
Lets start by exposing the big secret: most contradictions are false. They occur in our minds but they are not real. They occur because of fixedness. Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results
This more of a method to change mindset as opposed to a technique. Closely related to this is paradox, two descriptions which describe an object but appear to be contradictory. The best example of this is light can act as a wave or a particle. Paradoxes indicate a lack of understand, this troubles people, hence we try and avoid them. If you spot what appears to be a paradox, it needs to be examined closer.
The example given by the author in Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results is during the Spanish civil war, the republican forces where besieged in a town by the Fascists. The republicans needed to be resupplied by air drops by the lacked parachutes. The contradiction is, air resupply can not be done without parachutes. How to come up with up with a solution ?
First the assumption needs to be broken, this opens up the possibility that a solution can be found. What could the republicans attach to the packaged needed to be dropped to slow their fall and is useful ?
The solution the republican forces came up with probably would upset the SPCA but all is fair in love and war. Instead of tying the supplies to parachutes, tie them to live turkeys. The turkey when thrown out of the airplane would flap, slowing the decent of the supplies. As an added benefit, the besieged republican soldiers could eat the the turkey while they can not eat a parachute.
In my previous post, I broke the shopping malls are for buying. Once I broke that assumption, I was able to use the shopping mall to find clients for my product. With assumptions, one must test if they are always true. If the assumption can be broken, then under certain circumstances it can be used to find a solution.
At the start of this post, I promised, that you would be able to use the information in this post to increase your chances of having sex with women with large mammary glands. There are many good books on the subject, Robert Green for example provides the Concise 48 Laws of Power and the The Art of Seduction. In the first book he provides 48 principles for gaining power, in the second book he provides 24 principles for seduction. This is the part that people miss, just apply each principle will lead to limited results. You increase the probability of success by combining these principles to create new ones.
Creating new ideas or solutions isn’t limited to seduction, it should be applied in every facet of your life. The way to start learning how to do this is by doing. This was the point behind my post The journey is more important than the destination.
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