When problem solving it can sometimes be easier and more productive to deconstruct than construct. To stand in someone else’s shoes or in a different time and place and become curious about the rules governing this situation or world.

Rather than starting from where you are and imagining how to get from A to B, this approach invites you to assume that the problem has already been solved or that a situation or point of view makes sense to someone else.

  • What then might they be seeing?
  • What might be important to them?
  • What must be true in their world?
  • What are the ground rules?
  • What technological or psychological solutions must they have found?

Framing the situation or problem in this way allows us to suspend belief about what we feel is possible and say “It is possible, I just don’t know how yet”.

How Does This Approach Differ?

  • This approach is about suspending belief about what is possible or true in the here and now.
  • For the purposes of this approach, whatever scenario or viewpoint you are considering is true. Your job is to deconstruct it.
  • This differs from other problem framing or What If? approaches because you start from the assumption that this is both true and possible.
  • This switches a group’s thinking from trying to pick holes in an idea to prove it is impossible to instead imagining how something must be possible.
  • In doing so we sidestep biases or limiting beliefs (I could never think like that or that would never work) and focus instead on understanding this new scenario.

How Might I Use It?

1. Define the End Point

For example, “I want to transform the traditional startup model where a few founders shoulder everything to a collaborative framework that leverages diverse human expertise.”

2. Flip Perspective

Imagine that this new startup model has already been established and is thriving. Break down what makes it successful. For example, visualise a world in which startups have a broad network of contributors, each sharing their own unique expertise.

  • What are the key factors enabling this successful collaboration?
  • How are contributors benefitting from this approach?
  • How is the startup ecosystem benefitting?
  • What makes it work?

3. Explore the New Ground Rules

  • What is now true such that startups can transition from a few founders doing everything to a more decentralised, collaborative approach?
  • How do they coordinate?
  • How do they share value?
  • How do they make decisions?
  • How do they engage with investors?

4. List Possible Answers

Brainstorm and note down potential answers.

For example:

  • There is a platform or network where experts from various fields offer their skills as and when startups need them and for however long they are needed.
  • The startup culture values distributed leadership and collaborative decision-making.
  • Legal and financial structures exist that allow for fluid contribution whilst resolving equity and ownership matters.
  • Effective tools and platforms facilitate coordination across a broad set of collaborators.
  • The startup ecosystem supports and incentivises collaborative models, perhaps through funding opportunities or mentorship programs tailored for such setups.
  • There is a way of sharing value in an equitable manner than reflects the impact of each person’s contribution.

5. Don’t Stop at the First Answer

Dive deeper into each answer and pull it apart to find deeper answers that help you understand its feasibility, implications and nuances.

For example, taking the first answer above: If there were a platform for experts to share their skills, how would it address compensation or equity sharing issues? What different models might be possible?

6. Apply Your Insights

Once the ground rules are understood, you are now in a position to start building a roadmap to move from here to there.

That’s it. The invitation is to take this basic template and build a process that works for you.

Questions in the Image:

  • What would have to be true?
  • What must be true?

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day. Having an early morning meeting is asking questions of my morning routine. I don’t have the time to go through the usual routine so What routine will likely best serve my day? What do I want to accomplish before the meeting? What routine would allow me to best prepare for this meeting?

What Thoughts Would You Like to Share? My name is Tom O’Leary, and I envision a world in which curiosity shapes leadership. In this world, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning. My mission is to shift leadership focus from authority, over-measurement and control to curiosity, learning and innovation, empowering leaders to prioritise the essential. My journey, lived in a number of countries and through various languages, has always been driven by a profound sense of curiosity. In fact, life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential. I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.