September 2017

Project Stuck? Try Using A “Black Box.”

2017-09-10T18:44:23+00:00 Categories: SandBlog, think|Tags: , , , |

When a scientist or engineer designs a new process, they run into many unknowns. You can expect that when creating something from scratch. However, they could have so many unknowns, if they tried to solve each as they occurred, they’d get mired in minutia and never finish the project.

To deal with these sticky spots, they put each unknown into a “black box.” The box serves as a placeholder for what they’re missing. They assume what comes out of the black box is what they need to continue the path in the process. This allows them to progress without getting distracted.

Black Box Diagram

They will come back to their black boxes later and figure them out, or find someone who can.

The black box technique can come in handy when us non-scientists get stuck on something.

For example, when working on your marketing plan, you know you should include a social media strategy. But, you don’t know much about social media or the right tactics.

Your lack of knowledge may cause you to:

  • (a) omit this as a strategy, or
  • (b) head off to immediately become a social media expert.

If (a): You may miss a potentially critical strategy.
If (b): You’ve lost focus and spun off into a tangent.

Either way, your plan may suffer.

Instead, insert a black box to represent your social media strategy. Continue with the rest of your plan, and return later to add the missing details.

Next time you get stuck on an idea, try using black boxes. Don’t let a temporary lack of information hold you back.

May 2007

Performance = potential – interference (P=p-i)

2017-03-01T11:57:08+00:00 Categories: Destination, grow, SandBlog|Tags: , |

Do you look for “Aha!” moments when you read? I do. I read mostly business related books – once in a while dive into the classics – but mostly business and creativity related books. I read especially for those Aha! moments… bits of information that expand my knowledge or skills in a meaningful way!

I had an Aha! moment while reading Michael Bungay Stanier’s book “Get Unstuck & Get Going” In his book, which offers a cool solution to help generate ideas (more on his book in a future post), Michael quotes from a book titled “The Inner Game of Work” by Tim Gallwey. This is what sparked my Aha!:


Performance = potential – interference

Your performance is equal to what you are capable of when you remove obstacles.

Cool, huh?!

What obstacles are holding you back (creating interference) in life, at your job, or with your company that usurps your potential and prevents the performance you are truly capable of?

Interference can be in all shapes and forms including: lack of knowledge, personal bias, a bad boss, or your own procrastination.

Not to put too fine a point on it, what’s nice about this equation is that it breaks the common problem “We just can’t seem to get ‘this‘ done!” into three chunks.

  • Chunk 1 – Performance -> the ‘this‘… your goal, objective
  • Chunk 2 – Potential -> what we are capable of
  • Chunk 3 – Interference -> barriers, blockades, obstructions

The solution to your problem lies in either modifying potential or eliminating interference… If there are no apparent obstacles, you’ll know that you need to improve skills… So your solution will be found in learning.

If you know how to do it, but are somehow blocked… Your solution will be in managing obstacles… either tearing them down, going around, cutting through, etc…

In the Idea Sandbox, we spend most of our time helping clients eliminate interference… The interference which prevents you or your company from effectively solving problems, being remarkable, and highly effective branding.

Let me know your reactions. Does thinking about challenges in this context help you?

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