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The objective here is to take the ideas you have generated within the previous sub-stage and transform them in surprising and unpredictable ways that will get your creative juices flowing.

As you work through this sub-stage, there will be many different types of visual creative techniques that you will be able to turn to — many of which can be categorized under three headings:

  • Lenses
  • Restructuring
  • Metaphors

Each of these areas will help you to see things from alternative perspectives and angles that will expand the realms of possibility, and will allow you to come up with breakthrough ideas and solutions to the problems you are facing.

As you move through these areas, you will be asking yourself a specific set of questions that will effectively help you to change, distort, modify, adjust, rearrange, alter and twist your problem and the ideas you have already generated in unexpected ways. This is in essence the realm of genius, where incredible breakthroughs are made and brilliant ideas are born.

When moving into a creative frame-of-mind, it’s important that you let go of all judgments and assumptions. The key is to keep an open mind, to consider all possibilities, and to explore a wide variety of perspectives that may very well help you track down the solutions and answers you are after.

Let’s now explore this sub-stage in a little more detail.

Exploring Lenses

Lenses allow you to gain a new perspective of the problem or ideas you are working with. In fact, using lenses appropriately can help you to gain new insights that you may not have otherwise considered.

There are a variety of different lenses that will help you to alter form, appearance, nature or character. For instance, you might find it helpful to view the problem from another person’s perspective. How about from the perspective of Steve Jobs? Or from Albert Einstein’s perspective? The character you use as your lens doesn’t even need to be real. For instance, you could view your problem from the perspective of Harry Potter, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse or James Bond. Each one of these fictional characters can help you to see the problem or the ideas you have generated from a vastly different angle that you might not have considered.

You might also like to look at your problem from the perspective of a scientist, an artist, an engineer, an entrepreneur, or a baby. Alternatively, you can view your problem from the perspective of an animal, a tree or even an inanimate object such as a rock, mountain, waterfall, newspaper, kettle, jug, sofa, etc. These might initially seem like silly lenses, however what they will help you do is consider a vastly different perspective.

The key is to see the problem or idea from such a strange and sometimes amusing angle, that nobody in their right mind would ever view it this way. And that’s where your advantage lies. You will see things others do not see, and as a result you might use ideas you have gathered from combining the perspectives of a kettle, newspaper and rock, with the lenses of a Steve Jobs and Harry Potter. This is what real creativity is all about. It’s about seeing things that other (normal people) will never see or even consider a possibility. This is exactly how some of the biggest breakthroughs are made: creative people considering the impossible and improbable, and coming away creating the incredible.

We will discuss the idea of how to use lenses in much more detail on the VTM blog, however for now, here are some questions that will help you get started:

  • How would I approach this problem if I was Bill Gates?
  • What possibilities would I see within this idea if I was Steven Spielberg?
  • How would I view this problem from a scientific perspective?
  • What possibilities would I see within this idea if I was an artist?
  • How would I view this problem if I was a grizzly bear?
  • How would I solve this problem if I was a teapot?

Finally, there is one last questions you should keep in mind as you work through these lenses. That question is:

  • What if this wasn’t really a problem but rather an opportunity for change?

This shift in perspective alone could very well provide you with the direction you need to overcome the problem or problems you are facing.

Restructuring Your Ideas

It’s important to keep in mind here that in order to structure new ideas, you have to build them out of existing ideas.

What you are essentially doing is transforming something that you already have and turning it into something new, fresh and different. On the surface this might seem like a challenging task, however the more practical experience you gain, the easier this process will become.

Restructuring will help you to create new possibilities that grow out of existing ideas that might not be a hundred percent viable at this stage. And this is the main reason why going through this process is so vital. It will allow you to turn a reasonable idea into something that is practical and actionable. It’s also important that you take each of the ideas you have generated up to this point, and work them through this process as well.

The process of restructuring involves making additions, subtractions, multiplications, divisions and rearrangements. Let’s quickly have a look at each of them in a little detail:

  • Additions: To restructure a new idea you must add new components to this idea from other things or places. This combination could create something very unique, different and viable. Consider the act of borrowing ideas that we discussed within a prior sub-stage.
  • Subtractions: To restructure a new idea you must subtract components from your existing idea. An idea with less components might bring forth interesting possibilities.
  • Multiplications: To restructure a new idea you must multiply components and replace them. Having two or more of something, or replacing something with something else, can literally turn your idea on its head and provide you with new insights and possibilities.
  • Divisions: To restructure a new idea you must divide components by taking them apart in a new way. This literally means to pull your idea apart into its smallest components to see how they all fit and work together.
  • Rearranging: To restructure a new idea you must rearrange components in a new way or order by taking all the individual pieces or components of your idea and reordering them in new and unique ways.

You may find it helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can I rearrange this in a new and unique way?
  • What could I eliminate that would give me a new perspective of this situation?
  • How could I combine things in a new way that could lead to unique insights?
  • How could I combine these seemingly unrelated elements?
  • What could be achieved if I removed this component?
  • How can I recombine these objects in a different way to create something new?

Combining and Recombining

As you are working through this process, keep in mind that one solution or idea by itself might not be viable or practical. However, if you take a little time to reflect on how you could combine a number of solutions or ideas you have generated, than you might have something that you can work with. You might not get it right all the time. In fact, you probably won’t get it right most of the time, however, that really doesn’t matter because you only need to get it right one time, in order to create an idea that will solve your problem. This is where the process of making constant combinations and re-combinations comes into play.

Behind most innovations and creative ideas is a process of recombination. Consider existing technologies that are nothing more than a combination of people ideas and of objects that are disassembled and reassembled in ways that spawn revolutionary breakthroughs. In fact, recombining objects, ideas and things gives you a distinct advantage because you are effectively creating something new out of several things that already exist. It certainly beats having to create something out of nothing.

To give you an example, Thomas Edison’s system of electric lightning combined elements of the telegraph, the arc light, and the gas lighting industry.

Another example is Henry Ford who succeeded because he was able to bridge a wide range of industries in building an organization that combined the best people, ideas and objects he could find to build a car. In fact, Ford’s mass production system for building automobiles used existing technologies taken from a Chicago meatpacking business which helped him build his assembly line.

In both cases, Edison and Ford didn’t build or invent new technologies. They simply exploited technologies from other industries and applied them into their own business.

In order to create these kinds of ideas, you must develop your knowledge and understanding about a wide range of topics. This depth-of-knowledge will be your one key advantage. However, you must also have the courage and willingness to take that knowledge apart and combine it in new ways with knowledge from other areas.

You must see how things work within one world, and then have the flexibility-of-thought to apply it within another world. That in essence is the answer to all your problems.

Given all that has been said, you must however be very careful when it comes to knowledge. On the one hand it can be a powerful source for ideas, information and transformation. However, on the other hand, knowledge represents the old ways of thinking that often prevent people from seeing new possibilities.

Utilizing Metaphors

Did you know that a creative idea often begins with a metaphor? It’s within this metaphor that two ideas combine and fuse together to form a new and unique idea.

Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we are creating and using metaphors on a daily basis. These metaphors help us to get through life. However, you will need to create conscious and structured metaphors to help you generate viable solutions and ideas to the problems you are dealing with.

In order to gain clarity here, ask yourself:

  • What metaphors could I use to represent this problem?
  • How can I turn this problem into a metaphor?
  • What could I learn from these metaphors about this problem?
  • How can I turn these ideas into a metaphor that I can work with to solve this problem?
  • How could I use these metaphors to generate a viable solution?
  • How can I adjust and transform this metaphor to effectively solve this problem?

The best metaphors are sometimes the most unusual. They work well because they separate you from your perspective and understanding of the world, and place you into a different perspective where there’s new information and insights to be gained.

When working with metaphors to help you overcome your problems, it’s important that you follow six distinct steps:

  • Identify the problem that you are working through.
  • Attend to the people, environment, objects and to the circumstances surrounding the problem.
  • Clarify patterns and critical relationships that are relevant to your problem.
  • Establish the metaphor by making a connection between two things that don’t necessarily have to be related to your problem.
  • Extend the metaphor to establish a framework for the formation of your idea or solution to your problem. However, keep in mind that just because two things fit together well, doesn’t mean that they’ll create an ideal framework for your creation.
  • Discard the metaphor the moment it goes too far or becomes meaningless and no longer helps you solve your problem.

Remember that your main objective here is not to construct metaphors, but rather to create meaningful and useful combinations that will help you to resolve your problems.

The Life Metaphor

In order to help you solve your problem more effectively, it might be worthwhile to create a metaphor about your life, the circumstances and the problem. Once this has been established you can begin seeing the problem and all possible solutions through the lens of this metaphor. This will likewise help you to gain new insights and perspectives and open doors to new avenues and opportunities.

If you choose to establish such a metaphor, make sure that it’s outrageous, funny and involves you.

How can I visualize this?

Integrated into this stage is a set of visual thinking techniques, strategies, tools and processes that you can utilize to help you visualize your thoughts on paper or in physical form. These techniques will be revealed and integrated into each stage along The Path over time.

Everything you read here is part of ongoing research and experimentation within the visual thinking arena. The goal is to create a comprehensive framework for visual thinking that encapsulates creativity, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Your comments, ideas and suggestions are most welcome.