Newsletter #10   
December 2012 
S Lakshmi Narasimhan 
Welcome to this edition of the Voyages of Discovery Newsletter, the newsletter that is all about you and your voyages of discovery of your genius.  If you missed our previous newsletters, get them here from our archives.

In This Issue
Forced Association technique
The Inspiration for Writing
Next Issue
Forced Association technique
Forced Association technique
Surprise yourself by getting off the trodden  path.



Problem Solving

You go through life solving problems all the time. And life keeps up a perennial fusillade of problems to work on. It's problem coffers are unlimited, it's variety astounding. It is no wonder that stress rules a human being's life.

But problem solving is not a choice. It is the very means of survival first and thereafter progress and success. You confront problems at home, work, during commute, crossing the road, buying coffee, making an online purchase and so forth. Problems permeate every walk of life. You name them and you have them. These decisions (problems may make them sound more daunting than they are) are actually choices you are making based on whatever data or rationale or emotion you use. And believe me, choices are the bane of modern life. The bewildering gamut of options at your disposal just leave you drained and more critically, confused.

Your Decision Model
It is the manner in which you collect and compile information and then make a judgement that determines the choices you make and the decisions you take. Some of us are data compulsive by nature. You ferret out every conceivable scrap of information, whether related to your purpose or not (more often, not) and then you are accosted by a mountain of data to consider. You flog to death the monetary implications and finally pick the choice that impacts the wallet the least. It is most probable that the choice you made may not have been the optimum one, it just happened to be the cheapest one (many times you think it is the cheapest one but that may not have been the case).

Then there are the impulsive decision makers amongst us. The ones who are driven by their emotions than any quantum of data. These individuals listen to what their hearts are telling them and almost always the story is one of what is "perceived" rather than reality. For these persons data and information have no role to play. Very often this approach lands them the most expensive choice but they are happy internally - they have followed their hearts, remember.

Between these two rather extreme approaches lie a variety of permutations and combinations some focusing on cold numbers while others forsaking them for gut feel and the "feel" factor.
Out of the box thinking
A much cliched and maligned approach is the out of the box thinking approach which suggests looking at alternatives in a lateral thinking manner. These are the not so obvious but effective thinking approaches to a problem. Most times they do happen to be the most creative ones.

The Forced Association technique
One of the established tenets of creativity (that includes to a great extent creative problem solving) is innovation - a new perspective, an entirely new paradigm shift. It postulates turning upside down the traditional techniques of problem solving.

Forced Association is one such creative problem solving approach. It taps into the very heart of innovation.

The "not-so-obvious"
The human brain is extremely nimble in detecting patterns and relationships even where they do not seem to be any or are apparent to us. Utilizing this capacity of the brain, the forced association technique involves comparing disparate elements and making what is known as "forced or random association".
How does this work?

Forced Association is a technique of problem solving where you connect the problem to something which conventionally is not related to it. In a manner of speaking, you force an association. For instance, if you are trying to mobilize sales of personal computers, you connect that to say the game of ice hockey. The more unrelated the association to the problem on hand the better the chances of an unusual solution.

The brain is at its most creative phase when you are a child. But as you grow into an adult you often lose and/or stifle these tendencies. You rely instead on rules, experience, beliefs and scientific knowledge. You get guided by dogma. These are effective at dealing with existing entities, but are less useful with innovation. Forced Association overrides the logical thought processes and stimulates latent creativity. It unearths the "not-so-obvious."

'Bisociation', is a term coined by Arthur Koestler in his book, 'The Act of Creation', where he discusses the principle of forced association, amongst others. He combines 'bi' for two ideas and 'association'.

The Process
State the problem to be solved in the form of a question and write down 10 ten points related to that problem.
Choose an element that is completely unrelated to the problem. The most powerful applications of this technique include completely different industries, sports, games, concepts and so on.
Write ten typical characteristics of this industry, sport, game or concept.
For instance, if the problem in your company is stagnating revenues in a mobile phone business, create a forced association of that with a question such as: "How would this be tackled in a Non Profit organization?" or "How would it compare with the features or elements of the game of football or tennis?"
Compare the ten points of your problem with the corresponding  ten points of the forced association and go through them one by one. See if it is possible to relate any of the points from the forced association to your problem.

The forced association may not necessarily work at the first attempt, but most times it provides a definite "think outside- the-box" element that may ultimately lead to the solution. Many times, this technique will need to be modified before execution, but most importantly, one is looking for the "aha" moment of inspiration.

Real world example
Some years ago, when I was heading the Finance division of a multi-million dollar hotel property in China, I was faced with a dilemma. Due to an archaic salary scale system ( which you could not overhaul owing to relationship issues with local owners), team members of my Purchasing department had reached a ceiling limit on their salaries: where salary scales could not simply be increased without repercussions on position titles, comparison with other divisions, not to mention the probability of not being welcomed by the local owners.
Due to this, employee turnover was increasing alarmingly and I was not able to do anything on the salary front to retain those leaving. In this situation, I decided to carry out a forced- association problem-solving exercise as follows:
I wrote down the question: How can I retain people in my Purchasing department without being able to increase salaries all the time?
I then wrote 10 ten points related to this question (causes, effect, statement and so forth).
I used the game of Cricket (one of my favorites of all time) and wrote down ten typical characteristics of that game.
I created a forced association between my problem and the game of cricket.
Among the 10 characteristics that I wrote down for the game of cricket (typical features), one was: "People love to become cricketers since they could become famous personalities and give endorsements even if their regular pay was not very attractive.
This point about cricket gave me the idea to come up with non-monetary incentives that would give employees a sense of pride and fulfillment (not accompanied by any changes to salaries) so that they continue to work in the organization.
I then created a scheme in which each quarter, I would nominate one Purchasing team member to attend a merchandise fair or a vendor exhibition at company cost. This meant that the employee would travel beyond the city in which he/she lived to a fair/exhibition that lasted an entire day or even two in duration.

It worked like magic. People felt so happy that the company was sponsoring them they shared this with their families and friends with pride. In the next couple of years, employee turnover came down significantly and productivity increased tremendously.
As a bye product of the goodwill generated by this experiment and through word-of-mouth appreciation of the employees the organization came to be known in the market as a caring employer.

Let me leave you with this suggestion. 
The next time you are in a jam at work or even at home or you are brain storming for ideas, try the forced association technique to come up with a truly lateral thinking solution. 
You are certain to surprise yourself. 
Leave your comments about this article by clicking here.  
The Inspiration for Writing

Inspiration for Writing

Imagine letting your personality shine through in your writing! 


 Your inspiration
What inspires you to write? What moves you? What excites you? What angers you? What amuses you?

Inspiration for writing can manifest itself in myriad ways. It is important therefore to pay attention to the tenor and tone of your writing. Your personality will shine through.

For me, the foremost motivation to write is to share a story which may resonate with the readers and possibly motivate them to express themselves. Many of us undergo similar experiences in life and my sharing my take on it might just provide that different outlook that you may not have had. Just as we must find inspiration to write, we must also craft writing that inspires.

The first ingredient in the inspiration recipe for writing is motivation or more precisely emotion. Something must move us to write. It can be a cause, a crusade, a mission but it must be greater than just us.

If I write to tell you what activities I went through without bringing in the emotional quotient, it is of no value to you. You want to feel emotions when you read. You want to know the "why" more than the "what" of  it.

The next ingredient for inspiration is sharing. I am inspired to write because I wish to share my experience with you for the purpose of benefiting you with something good that you can obtain or something bad that you can avoid. I wish to ensure that you do not re-invent the wheel, so to say. The explosion of the Internet juggernaut has basically been  for this purpose of sharing stories. Thousands avoid pain and problems by reading stories that have been shared by others.

The third inspiration for writing is my own philosophy. I would like to clarify my thoughts by indulging in this method of expression. Further, by committing to writing whatever philosophy I follow I am giving it commitment and validation. Having conviction in one's philosophy is paramount to articulating it in writing. You cannot proceed to write on something that you do not believe in.

Finally, I am inspired to write because I wish to reach a global audience. I wish to spread my message to the farther corners of the global. As said earlier, the Internet has made this a no-brainer. My writing is not just a one on one monologue, it is a dialogue with a huge audience.

However, at the end of the day, writing must tap into our sub-conscious, for there resides the mightiest source of inspiration. The tell tale indication of an inspired piece of writing is when it gushes out without apparent effort and carries with it deep meaning and a philosophy which one never thought resided in us. It is like discovering oneself and writing regularly reveals our personalities in ways we never imagined.

Aldous Huxley the English Writer said: Experience is not what happens to you but what you do with what happens to you.

Do something with that experience of yours. Create a voice for sharing that experience.
Your story and experience are as unique as your DNA.
It will deliver that much needed dose of inspiration for your writing effort.

Leave your comments about this article by clicking here.

Next Issue (see you in December 2012)
Discover your Genius
The road to your passion

Have you found your inspirational time of the day - magic moments of stimulation, creativity and purpose. Read why and how.


You need to be out of the box first to think outside itAre you?

and many more......

Feedback on the newsletter is welcome including any suggestions for improvement and may be sent to

Believe in yourself and discover the genius in you.

Talk to you soon.
S Lakshmi Narasimhan
Author of the just released Book: Discover the Genius in the Mirror

About Ignite Insight LLC: I am the Founder of Ignite Insight LLC, a Consultancy specializing in providing Group/Executive Training, Coaching and consulting services to companies, business groups and individuals. We empower you to discover the genius in yourself!

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Contact me at: 1-201-253-5000 
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