In this episode, Clarke Ching shares an innovative problem solving approach to help us solve tricky problems.

Show Notes

We’re often called upon to apply our problem solving skills and help organizations make better decisions.  The challenge is when we face really tricky problems.  To solve these, we need an innovating problem solving approach.

Corkscrew thinking is about how to come up with clever ideas when you’re facing what seems like an impossible situation.

This approach helps you to be creative and wander around to figure things out.  You’re trying to invent something or discover something new.  If you’re facing two choices and they conflict or directly oppose each other, corkscrew thinking can help you discover new solutions.

When we make decisions, we often make out a pros and cons list.  What we’re trying to do with corkscrew thinking is to get the best of both options while eliminating the negative aspects.  Start with the two options that are in conflict and figure out what to get the benefits out of each of those options and then solve a different problem, which is to come up with new options. It allows you to get a better solution than the options you started with.

One way of envisioning corkscrew thinking is to imagine that you’re holding two choices or options, one in each hand.  Next, think about the benefits of each option and stack those on each shoulder.  These are the requirements or the positive outcomes that each choice will help you to achieve.

Now imagine the higher purpose that you’re trying to achieve related to these two options.  Imagine this overall mission on top of your head.

Finally, consider the benefits on your shoulders and the higher purpose above your head and search for options that combine the benefits of both while serving your higher purpose.

This exercise can best be done with a quick drawing or sticky notes.

Corkscrew Thinking

Listen to the full episode to understand how to apply corkscrew thinking to solve your tricky problems.


Start noticing when you have a dilemma and are torn between two choices.
Every hour we’re faced with dozens of decisions and often we’re not actually making choices because we’re stuck with a dilemma and we don’t even notice it.

Just start to notice when you’re torn between two options and then write them down and write the pros and cons. Then ask yourself how to get all of the pros / benefits.

Links Mentioned in This Episode

Clarke Ching

Clarke Ching

Clarke has been powered by the Theory of Constraints for over 20 years and Agile since 2003.  He wrote Rolling Rocks Downhill (the Agile business novel that never mentions Agile) and The Bottleneck Rules (which was featured in The Guardian newspaper, and was briefly the #2 best-selling leadership book on, just behind Steven Covey).

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