Solving Management Problems – Be Provocative

Management Problem Solving – Using The Provocation Technique

We all have to rise to a big challenge from time to time. The pressure is on and the deadline is approaching.


One possible way of dealing with this impending crisis is to try to think your way out of the situation by being creative and looking at all possible options. The problem is that we tend to get into the familiar territory of conventional thinking which seriously limits creativity.

This is why using a technique like provocation can be useful. Provocation is a lateral thinking technique. It works by disrupting established patterns of thinking, and giving us new places to start; we need to actively challenge our conventional thinking and to forget established patterns of knowledge.

Using provocation you make deliberately wrong or unreasonable statements (provocations), in which something you take for granted about the situation is not true. An example would be that an aeroplane has no roof – something that is plainly incorrect and hence a provocation.

Statements need to be outrageous like this to shock your mind out of existing ways of thinking. Once you’ve made a provocative statement, you then suspend judgment and use that statement to generate ideas, giving you original starting points for real creative thinking. The more outrageous the provocation the better the chance of throwing off the shackles of conventional wisdom and the more likely it is that you will escape the normal routes your thinking process runs.

Step 1: Create the Provocation

It can sometimes be difficult to come up with a provocation, simply because our brains are hard-wired to come up with sensible solutions.

One way to get started with provocations is the “escape method.” Here, you make a statement that everyone takes for granted. This “take for granted” statement should be related to the problem you’re trying to solve. Once you’ve created a take for granted statement, you can then come up with a provocative statement to counter it.

Step 2: Create Movement/Ideas

Once you’ve made a provocation, you need to imagine what would come next. This is called the “moment-to-moment” technique. Essentially, you’re going to imagine, on a moment-by-moment basis, what comes next.

Here the widest variety of options should be allowed to be stated and examined. In this way there is no one uniform method of thinking or pre-set solutions.

Step 3: Extract Value

Keep in mind that your goal is not to prove that your provocation is useful or justified. Your goal is to generate ideas that are separate from the provocation.

You extract value from the provocation by taking one of those ideas, and turning it into a viable solution to your problem.

This sounds like an unconventional and somewhat “clunky” approach but it gives a different approach by working from a point of often outrageous logic back to a practical solution that will hopefully provide a fresh perspective.

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