SXSW Recap – CIA Shows New Ways to Solve Problems
Brad True, The Cannon
Last weekend, The Cannon team joined tens of thousands of attendees descending on downtown Austin for SXSW 2019, spending 5 days attending panels, networking with attendees, and learning from some of the most accomplished entrepreneurs, marketers and innovators in the business. We even joined up with a group of 25+ of our Houston Innovation friends at an impromptu Houston dinner on Saturday night!
But the sessions and panels were definitely a highlight, and one of our favorites actually helped kick us off on day 1. Did you know the CIA has an entire team dedicated to injecting creativity into how its agents solve cases? The CIA’s Jacob Eastham and Nyssa Straatveit took a packed house of SXSW attendees through the agency’s internal creative process in an aptly titled session – Wombats and Wood Ducks – The CIA’s Secrets to Creative Problem Solving.
After a brief introduction, Eastham and Straatveit took a deeper dive into four of their primary problem solving tactics, utilizing easily recallable (and sometimes adorable) animals to help organize key points:
- Wombat – an acronym of “What (o) Might Be All The”, the Wombat reminds us to reframe how we look at problems, taking a step back and asking open ended questions around what might be all of the potential solutions, versus immediately narrowing down our options based on preconceived notions and previous experience.
- Wolf – Building on the Wombat, the wolf highlights the need to get out of our comfort zones and search in unexplored places for the solution, just as wolves do when they venture out into the wilderness. Too often we attempt to solve problems inside our previous biases when the best solution resides far outside of the box and is waiting for us to find it.
While most wouldn’t have likely thought of the CIA as an innovative and entrepreneurial organization, they clearly have prioritized these solution-generating methods to help in their own day-to-day challenges. With (obviously) much lower stakes, entrepreneurs face similarly surprising and unforeseen problems that can pop up with no notice. Next time this happens? Try turning to a Wombat or Wood Duck and see if it helps find an unexpected solution.