In a small Italian town two hundred years ago, a reputable merchant owed a loan shark a huge sum of money. Because of the exorbitant interest rate, the debt had grown too large to repay.
The loan shark was old and ugly, but coveted the merchant’s young daughter. To clear the debt, he offered the merchant a devilish deal, disguised as a “sporting chance.”
The loan shark said he would place a white pebble and gray pebble in a sack and the daughter would pull out one of the pebbles. If it was gray, the debt would be wiped out and the daughter would marry him. If it was white, the debt would be wiped out and the daughter would not have to marry him.
The merchant was disgusted and initially refused, but his daughter insisted that they had no choice. So they walked up a pebble strewn path to the village to meet the loan shark, who stood there with two gray pebbles in his sack (so he’d win either way).
The merchant’s daughter pulled out a pebble and before her father or the loan shark saw the color, she “accidentally” dropped it onto the ground, lost among many other colored pebbles.
She then said to the loan shark, “Oh, how clumsy of me. You draw the other pebble from the sack. Whatever color it is, we’ll know mine was the opposite.”
The loan shark was caught in his own devious scheme. Since the remaining pebble was gray, the merchant was forced to admit that the pebble she dropped must have been white, clearing the debt with no obligation to marry.
How did the merchant’s daughter know the loan shark would cheat? She didn’t for sure, but she was aware of his nefarious reputation and thought it was likely that he would. So she used a creative solution to foil his plan.
We all face challenges from time to time, many lacking obvious solutions. These situations may require the same kind of creative thinking used by the merchant’s daughter. Yet we often find it difficult to think outside the box.
Many years ago I worked on a project with my son, Brian, called SmartsMatter. The cornerstone was a thought process I came up with that I called Seven Dimensional Thinking. It’s a framework for thinking more creatively.
The seven dimensions are: Bigger – Smaller – Faster – Slower – Opposite – Different – Gone
For example, in business we typically deal with products or processes, so I try to think about them in seven different ways:
What if I made it Bigger?
What if I made it Smaller?
What if I made it Faster?
What if I made it Slower?
What if I made it the Opposite (i.e. reversed the process)?
What if I made it Different (color/shape/style)?
What if I made it disappear (Gone) and recreated it from scratch?
In the story above, the merchant’s daughter refused to resign her fate to the devious loan shark and erased her father’s debt (with no obligation to marry) through creativity.
So the next time you’re trying to look at something creatively, apply Seven Dimensional Thinking and see where it takes you.