GET AHEAD BY THINKING BACKWARD
10 OCTOBER 2016
ACCOUNT DIRECTOR | MANIFESTO
We’re always exploring different problem solving techniques for helping our clients solve their brand challenges. Through years of strategy and research, we’ve become very logical thinkers. We embrace consistency and forward linear process. But often times, when challenges and thinking hit a roadblock, we hear things like, “let’s take a step back”, “let’s start over”. But instead, maybe we should be saying, “let’s do this backwards”. Changing up the conventional process of problem solving can occasionally influence a fresh, unexpected and potentially stronger perspective.
Approaching problem solving from the end goal, with singular or multiple paths forward can lead to a different, and at times breakthrough, way of approaching your challenge. Scientists, mathematicians and politicians often use this technique. And I see this practice coming through when we build strategic plans. Often times there is the central piece of the puzzle and everything else is built around telling the story to gets us to that central guide for our brands.
So, let’s break this down. Instead of starting with the problem. Start with the solution, or the end goal you are going to achieve. Make sure it comes with absolute clarity. Work backwards through the logic of what is the current problem, what is causing the problem, how to change it, how to create the action or behavior that will trigger success. Map out a few logic flows for how this might work, swap inputs until you find the process that best inspires your thinking.
To effectively use this method, and arguably any problem solving method, it's critical to clearly understand 1) the end game, and 2) the real problem you are solving for.
One disconnect we often see when we encounter roadblocks is really getting to the real problem we are solving for. At times, we discuss challenges like low awareness, brand perception or low sales. But, is there something deeper that is driving these challenges? Does your audience truly understand the value your brand or product brings to their life? Do they clearly understand your category? Digging deep into your problem in and of itself can bring more clarity to your problem solving, but can help provide more guidance in connecting the dots between your end goal and the problem.
A specific advantage I’ve seen with this method is simplification of a complex problem. Often times when we kick off a new project, we are conditioned to think broad, and to generate a high volume of ideas from the get go. But, it doesn’t always need to play out like that. Having too many choices can sometimes be paralyzing when it comes to complex problem solving. These are moments when starting from the end goal can help simplify the process by narrowing down the directions your ideas need to go in.
APPLY BACKWARDS THINKING
This method can be applied to aspects of personal life, such as planning a vacation. What is your end goal? Is your ideal vacation experience staying in a castle in Europe? Is it escaping to a deserted island or going backpacking? Narrowing in on that and working your way backwards through options of environments, methods of transportation and price can help you get to your ideal solution quicker. Something to consider before hitting the travel deal sites.
Let’s say you are a financial brand, seeking to increase applications within your credit portfolio with millennials. This is a tricky challenge as millennials likely have a range of financial situations, and may also be more conservative with how they are spending their money. Starting backwards might lead you to seek out what triggers encourage credit card usage, what they spend their money on and then work your way up to solving for how to even start the conversation with them.
So even as life continues to influence us to approach life one step forward at a time, consider inverting the process, and see how you can surprise yourself (and others) with a unique perspective that can guide your thinking.