To quickly and creatively solve a problem should you give it to someone else?

 

Dan Pink’s fantastic blog covers interesting new research that “when people solved problems on behalf of others, they produced faster and more creative solutions than they did when they solved the same problems for themselves.”

Subjects were more likely to come up with the answer on behalf of another person than for themselves; the farther away the other person was imagined to be, the more likely the participants were to come up with the correct answer.

Polman and Emich say the principle at work is something called “construal-level theory,” which in simple terms means that we think in more abstract terms about distant problems (or problems belonging to distant people) — and thinking at a more abstract level produces more creative solutions.

Pink also offers three ways to try and apply the principle:

  1. Trade problems with someone.
  2. Solve problems on behalf of someone else.
  3. Put some distance between yourself and your project.

Dan Pink’s excellent book is Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I highly recommend it. You can read my notes from it here or watch Dan speak about it at the TED conference here.

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About Eric Barker