Stretch out of your Functional Fixedness

We learn many powerful lessons throughout life, but rarely apply the principles and practices to all relevant contexts. As mentioned in the video below, many appreciate and apply the concept of diversification to financial investments, but they apply equally to skills. The novelty of initial experiences can wear off, technology can negate any value, etc.

Even looking at more detailed frameworks, many of the principles and practices can be replicated in other areas. Lean, AKA “The Toyota Production System”, was originally a system applied to improve quality, safety, morale, delivery, and the cost of manufacturing. Slowly, the ideas spread to other manufacturers, then some service industries. After many decades, the principles and tools have been applied to any area where people want to become more effective. At a high level, the whole point is to maximize whatever we value. Inversely, we want to minimize any detractions.

Imagine you want to become a competitive runner. The goal would be to consistently maximize speed (distance/time). What contributes to speed? Strength in the core and legs would allow longer strides, and would ensure you don’t break partway through a race. What about strong forearms? Weak forearms might have some consequence, but you wouldn’t be sprinting to buy gymnastic rings.

The further the distance, the less weight you will want to carry. Any weight from shoes should directly contribute to traction, shock absorption, smoother strides, etc. Steel toes, however, wouldn’t be useful for most running situations. Worse, the extra weight both slows strides and drains legs. In other words, you spend from one value, without gaining in another.

The 7 ways exercise

To treat your functional fixedness, there are several (thought) exercises. “7 ways” is one popular option. This can be in two major styles, 7 ways to make use of ___ or 7 ways to do ___.

Example A: 7 ways to make use of a pen
  1. Writing
  2. Throwing at someone to get their attention
  3. Fidget spinning
  4. Box Opener
  5. Self defense
  6. Trespasser signal (spycraft)
  7. Cable organizer
Example B: 7 ways to send a message over long distances, without sophisticated technology
  1. Smoke signals
  2. Birds
  3. Drums
  4. Signal Fires
  5. Mirrors
  6. Flares / burning arrows
  7. Horns

Usually, the first 3-5 examples come easy, but the sixth and seventh begin stretching your imagination. This helps you warm-up before starting any creative problem solving.


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