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Technique N°13 - Paradox it

Linking resources and problems creates great ideas!

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A problem has never just one dimension; it is a mix of doable and impossible things. A good way to embrace the complexity of a problem, is to use the paradox analogy and focus on its main features to generate new ideas.

Let’s try this technique with an example from Vicks Cough & Cold Relief contest: “Invent the next super convenient solution for surface cleaning and disinfection that will appeal to more parents and grandparents”.

To identify the different sides of a problem, three techniques can be used:

  • The paradox that states a fact that seems likely but leads to a nonsense
  • The analogy which is using a solution that solved an analogous problem
  • The ability to focus on the core of the problem


To apply those techniques, follow the steps below:

  1. Start by converting your problem into a paradox: a statement or proposition that, despite how it sounds (or apparently sounds) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, logically unacceptable, or self-contradictory.
    To do so, answer the following questions:
    • What is the opposite of your problem?
    • What is the contradiction of your problem?
    • Complete the sentence: “The paradox was that… unless it does…”
In our example, the paradox can be: “The paradox of the cleaning solution was that unless being super convenient and great at cleaning and at disinfecting, it does not appeal to more parents and grandparents.” 
  1. Summarize it in a 2-word concept (like the title of a song or a book) to capture the essence of the paradox and make it easier to work with. Focus on one adjective and a noun.
The paradox can be transformed into album titles like:
- “Hated cleansing”
- “Disinfecting rejection”
- “Convenient disenchantment” 
  1. List the analogies (a comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification) and select the best:
    • Is there a natural analogy (animals, plants, or non-living things)?
    • Is there an object that behaves the same way?
It is now time to list the analogies of my favorite album: “Disinfecting rejection”.
One can think of the dogs that smell other dogs and use their pee to mark their territory. 
  1. Now find one the unique feature or activity of the best analogy: what is its main characteristic?
The main feature of the analogy (dogs) is the fact that smell is personal and allows us to identify people. 
  1. Apply this feature or an equivalent to your problem to find new ideas.
  2. Develop one of the new ideas you generated.
For example, your idea might be a cleaning solution with different scents that help you distinguish your home from others – personalizing your home’s scents through a cleaning product. 

The paradox technique lets you play with your problem and transform it into something easier to embrace.


Did you find new ideas to solve the problem? If yes, congrats!

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