A provocation is a new, wacky constraint meant to upend vertical thinking processes and reframe a problem. They help us jump the tracks of lateral thinking into entirely new territory.
This is a technique for group brainstorming sessions. The facilitator will introduce a provocation when thinking begins to stall to provide a new platform from which new ideas can spring. Provocations are verbal and prefixed with the word “Po”.
Here are some example provocations that could be used when brainstorming how to design a new car—
- “Po. There are no roads.”
- “Po. Wheels are square.”
- “Po. Cars can’t carry fuel.”
These are false and illogical constraints, and they’re meant to be. Upending the problem space is an efficient way to break out of linear thinking. Sometimes these constraints lead to a comprehensive solution. Often they seed the nugget of an idea you can build upon without those constraints.
Going back to the shipwrights trying to make a faster ship—
- “Po. There’s never any wind.”
This kind of provocation allows experts in sail dynamics to think outside the box. This kind of provocation is necessary to jump from wind power to steam, coal, and beyond.
This is innovation.