Distancing – A Thinking Strategy


Distancing is similar to Backward Thinking, which we recently wrote about in this blog – a thinking strategy to avoid mental inertia or being locked in one’s logic bubble.

Distancing means that we create deliberately some emotional, psychological and mental distance towards the problem situation or thinking challenge.

There are several ways to distance ourselves.

  • Image the problem challenge is not now and here, but somewhere else. For example, in another continent and years ahead.
  • Redefine the problem in neutral terms in order to avoid associations to the standard or normal way of seeing things. Using abstract terms, which have no relation to the existing  meaning of the word. For example, the problem of wild cats who steal food from the domestic pets could be redefined into a movable object interrupts the properly functioning of another movable object.
  • Image how someone else, unrelated to the field, would solve the problem. To enhance their cooperation teams for heart operations consulted on an aircraft carrier, plumbers and a pitch stop teams at car races.
  • Image how many little dwarfs would attack the problem.
  • Change the dimensions of the problem. What would happen as the length of an object was five times more?
  • Identify a reference class of past, similar problem situations or thinking challenges. This is especial fruitful when forecasting or assessing risks. (Reference Class Forecasting)

Generally, it comes down as looking at the problem as a complete outsider (see this movie).

To read more about thinking strategies see our eBook.

Photo “World Globes On Beach” by chrisroll

5 Replies to “Distancing – A Thinking Strategy”

  1. Theory: In order to improve our reality through creativity, we must first detach from that same reality.
    When we can detach ourselves from our immediate reality, we tend to be more creative. Whether it’s through dim lighting, alcohol consumption, psychological distance, the noise of a coffee shop, or some other methods perhaps in combination, it’s all about distracting, if not outright tricking, our own logic force to get out of the way.
    See also http://www.forbes.com/sites/willburns/2013/07/10/multiple-creativity-studies-suggest-creating-our-reality-requires-detaching-from-it/

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