I am half way through the book The Achievement Habit by Bernard Roth and felt compelled to write about it. I was anticipating a book about being organised and focused, maybe something along the lines of “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. Instead, I was surprised to find that this is a creative thinking book in disguise. Slightly serendipitous for me as that is exactly the type of book I love. Bernard Roth has written a creative thinking self-help book.

Reframing a problem

achievement habit creative thinkingOne of the chapters I particularly enjoyed was about reframing a problem. This is a common creative thinking method where you rephrase the problem to open up more solutions. For example, if your problem is how to design a chair, you could rephrase it to, what ways can you support someone in a seated position.

The author explains a technique for reframing slightly differently. First, he explains the concept by asking you to imagine a scenario. A drunk man is trying to walk round a lamp post but keeps bumping into it. He believes, this is what you are like with a problem you are struggling to solve. The issue might be that you are trying to solve the wrong problem.

In order to reframe your problem, Roth advises changing your question into answer form. Then you can work out what the real question is. Sounds a bit like that game Jeopardy doesn’t it?

An example he gives is someone who asks themselves the question How can I find a spouse? Change this into answer form, to make it “find a spouse”. Then think what the question could be. One question he suggests could work is ‘How might I get companionship?’ You can see immediately that using this as your starting point could provide very different solutions.

He talks about taking this through further levels. So now make the answer “get companionship” and work out possible questions. You can see how this could open up further lines of thinking. Of course, this method could be applied to anything, not just self-help.

More ways to get unstuck

Further on in the book are 22 ways to get unstuck. Some of this is bog standard stuff, hard work, relaxing etc, but he also shares short notes on other creative thinking techniques. I wish these had been expanded on more, but I guess that would have made it a completely different book.

I am not sure if I will use the book as it was intended, but I am really enjoying it. The way he has tied together two unrelated topics, creativity and self-help, is an exercise in creative thinking itself. Here’s hoping the second half of the book is as interesting as the first.

Google Talk on The Achievement Habit

If you want to see if the book might be for you, check out the Google Talk with Bernard Roth talking about The Achievement Habit