When you know a problem too well to solve it. ("We've been through all this before...")

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When you know a problem too well to solve it

Heavier-than-air flight. Breaking the sound barrier. The four-minute mile. Self-driving cars.

People close to those challenges often held scientific “proof” that they were impossible to achieve.

And the more people studied, the more firmly they held those beliefs. They stayed too close to the problem.

But inspiration often comes from unexpected places.

✅ I’ve seen intractable engineering problems overcome by a “stupid question” from a business executive.
✅ I’ve seen executive-level challenges resolved by a comment from an individual contributor.
✅ Scientists, ministers, and business leaders often unlock their best ideas after input from their untrained spouses.

But they must be willing to listen to those who don’t know the problem well.

And those who are new to a problem must be willing to risk ridicule for their “stupid” observations.

If you’ve been fighting a problem unsuccessfully for too long, it may be time to invite input from someone who has no idea what you’re talking about.

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