Sheena Iyengar Signing her Think Bigger Books
Blog Innovation

Think Bigger with Sheena Iyengar (Masterclass Summary)

Yesterday, we hosted a masterclass with Professor Sheena Iyengar, a global expert in choice-making and innovation. The session began with an interactive poll on the audience’s biggest pain points in driving innovation within their organizations. The results highlighted common challenges, including a lack of processes to advance or eliminate ideas, difficulty getting people on board in the innovation process, and an absence of a clear and actionable innovation strategy.

To Choose is to Invent

During the masterclass, Sheena introduced us to a toolkit called “Think Bigger,” aimed at helping individuals and organizations make better choices. This toolkit focuses on both improving the decision-making process and fostering creative problem-solving. She emphasized the interconnected nature of choice and creativity, challenging the traditional view that they are separate processes. “To choose is to invent,” innovation happens by combining existing elements in new and surprising ways. 

Look Outside of Your Industry

Diversity of knowledge emerged as a crucial factor in fostering collaborative innovation. During the pandemic, professionals from different fields were gathered together to solve problems such as how to solve the lack of ventilators or how to distribute vaccines safely to remote areas. The same innovative solutions may not have come up had they not utilized the knowledge of other fields that work with breathing technology or temperature-controlled deliveries.

Often when looking for a solution to a problem, we look at what our competitors are doing. But this is not the way to find an innovative solution. The most interesting ideas are not to be found within your industry, but outside of it. 

Professor Iyengar highlighted the importance of being strategic about the diversity of knowledge brought into the innovation process, going beyond superficial differences in size, shape, and color.

Avoid Choice Overload

The session also delved into practical techniques to address the challenge of choice overload. The obvious solution is to cut down on the options. Furthermore, Sheena discussed the significance of organizing categories by content rather than confusing customers with “cute” names for product categories. With customization experiences, there are by definition a lot of different choices and decisions to be made. In these cases, it’s best to start off with the easier choices with fewer options, and gradually introduce complexity in decision-making. 

Alternative for Brainstorming

The “Think Bigger” method is a structured approach to deal with the complexity of choice and information. It involves defining the problem, breaking it down into subproblems, searching for diverse solutions for each subproblem within and outside the industry, and mapping the different solutions into a Choice Map. 

The method encourages collaboration by ensuring a shared understanding of the problem while allowing for diverse perspectives. Using the Choice Map method is an alternative to brainstorming, providing more structure to the imagination process and ensuring that generated options are useful by solving key aspects of the problem. 

Frame Your Question in a Different Way

Sheena also discussed the ideation process and the importance of framing questions differently to access different parts of the brain. The audience was presented with an exercise to think of as many ways to use a toothpick as you can. What can you do with a toothpick? What does it remind you of? Could you use it like a stick? Look around you, is there something you’re doing right now you could use a toothpick for? The mind is like an inventory, and by asking the same question in different ways we can access different parts and find more solutions. 

Two additional tools within the “Think Bigger” toolkit were introduced: The Big Picture Score for rank ordering solutions and The Third Eye as a forecasting tool for collecting feedback. 

Overall, the masterclass offered insights and practical tools for driving innovation by addressing common challenges and providing a systematic approach to decision-making and creative problem-solving. Thank you Sheena Iyengar for the valuable insights!


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