Sometimes the best strategy for solving a difficult problem is to leave it alone. This advice can be hard to accept for the hard-driven, results oriented manager. It is still good advice however. Giving ourselves (and our teams) a rest from solving a difficult problem can be the spark that ignites creative and innovative problem solving. This approach is called abandonment and it is a tool that savvy managers use when they realize that mental fatigue is blocking breakthrough thinking.
Looking at the picture, you can see that no one is at the office! They have left the organizational problems for another day. Breakthrough thinking often occurs when you leave a project alone. This is Abandonment. You temporarily stop working on a project. The saying, Sleep on it, is the popular saying for Abandonment.
Abandonment allows your mind to come up with other non-standard solutions to a problem. Once engaged with a problem and left alone to solve it, our brains start working on a solution which we often get at strange times. Those late night, while you are resting, or while you are doing something recreational brainstorms that you and everyone else gets comes with Abandonment.
If you lead or manage a group, this tool can be used to engage the business enterprise in innovative and creative thinking. For example, in meetings you can present a pressing problem to the group and instead of engaging the group immediately in brainstorming solutions, you abandon the problem and tell the group that they will work on solutions at a future scheduled meeting. By doing this, you encourage them to bring their best solutions at that time. Through Abandonment you have engaged the entire group to begin thinking at a deeper and creative level. Instead of always pushing for an immediate result, you can abandon a problem for awhile to get a better result from your team.
If you use this approach, you will find that there will be some standard solutions of limited value. Frequently, however, there will also likely be some different or unorthodox approaches that have the seeds of innovation and creativity in them. With this list of ideas, you can then use non-judgmental brainstorming to capture these ideas and have the group expand on them. Later identify the best choices and rank them. You can also have different groups work on implementing the ideas to keep the innovative spirit alive. (This approach works well if you have created an environment where free thinking is valued over always following existing policies and procedures. If you have not created this environment, you can start creating it with your team by recognizing good ideas that make sense and communicating the change in behavior you want to see. Reward what you want to see and over time you will experience more free thinking and open expression. )
The next time you face a difficult problem try abandoning it for awhile and looking at it with a fresh perspective the next day, next week, or so (depending on your time deadlines). You will often find that your mind has found an innovative or even a brand new creative approach to solving the problem that far exceeds your initial thoughts.