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"The questions that are being asked must change". -Thomas S. Kuhn

Oblique search strategies are prompts that alter the formulation of the problem. This can often help get a problem unstuck in the cases where everyone has a crystallized, unchangeable conception of how to think about the problem and past attempts at solutions. Oblique search strategies can be used as prompts in Optimal Brainstorming, or used on their own. Many such strategies are strongly related to Concept Operators.

Examples:

  • Try switching from forward chaining to back chaining or vice versa
  • What is the upstream constraint?
  • Have you tried switching from an away frame to a towards frame?
  • How is negative capability doing? Do you feel like you can play with the problem parameters or are you desperately looking for a solution so you can be done with it? Can you make some space for the problem to breathe? To expand so you can see its details?
  • What would a boring/dumb/obvious solution look like? Can that be improved?
  • What would it look like to change yourself such that it wasn't a problem anymore?
  • What would lots of small solutions look like?
  • How should someone else implement a solution finding process?
  • What if you woke up and the problem was solved? How would you know? What would be different?
  • What lucky fluke would solve the problem?
  • Have you tried describing the problem rather than explaining it? (An explanation assumes causal structure, a description is just data)
  • Have you tried putting everything you know about the problem all in one place?
  • Key assumptions: who what where why how when, always/never, can't/must, all/none.

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