Creative Problem Solving: The Boulder Analogy

Many years ago, I heard a story about a builder who wanted to put a house in the perfect place, but there was one problem: a boulder.  This boulder was so big that the builder just couldn’t make it budge.  Pushing it, pulling it… nothing seemed to get it to move.

As the story unfolded it was clear that there was no good option, except maybe to build around the bolder.  Until one day, the builder figured out a terrific solution.  There was one direction he hadn’t previously thought about moving this boulder: down.  Instead of pushing or pulling, he simply dug a really deep hole, almost directly under the boulder, and the boulder eventually was coerced to drop down.  Problem solved.

Let’s ignore any problems you have with the engineering of this solution and just accept that it was a brilliant, indeed a creative, solution, to a seemingly impossible problem

Like the seemingly impossible problem of finding a job.  When you feel like you got kicked in the teeth by the rat race.  When you know what you need to do, but just don’t want to go through the motions because WHY?  Why do the stuff when you might not like the job, or the boss… or you might get laid off in a year or two and be back at square one?

That is an unmovable rock that I understand.  I lived it, exactly 10 years ago today.  Ten years and a couple of weeks ago, though, I figured out what it meant to stop pushing, and stop pulling, and just dig a hole the rock could drop into.  And that I have done, over the last ten years… dug, dropped the rock, and brushed dirt over the hole.

I imagine we all have boulders that are in our way.  They are debilitating, they are intimidating.  But they are not unconquerable.

My friends, push and pull if it’s the right thing to do to your boulders, but be open to different solutions.  Creativity is not just for artists.  You, as a problem solver, are entitled to coming up with creative solutions to your problems.  Just realize that sometimes creative sounds brilliant, sometimes it sounds nuts.  If it sounds nuts, you might need an extra dose of courage to follow-through with your idea.