Creative Thought

Thinking Around Corners – A New Perspective On Creative Thought

In Japan, blind corners are everywhere. The roads are narrow and walls extend right out to meet the curb. It is inconvenient at best, deadly at worst. From the driver’s seat of a car there is just no way to see what is around the corner.

The only help is a mirror on the other side of the intersection. If you look into the mirror, it is like you are standing in a different position. It is like you cross the road, and now have a clear view straight around the corner. This is the only way to see around blind corners. Looking from this different position makes the way forward obvious.

In life, blind corners are everywhere. You are dealing with a problem or are faced with a challenge and you just can’t see the solution. You are blind to the solution because your perspective is limited by the position you are in. You can’t see the way forward because of who you are, what you believe and how you normally behave.

When you are stuck like this you need to look at the situation from a different perspective, but how?

A quick and easy way to get an alternate perspective is to play a little mind game called “Thinking Around Corners”. This excercise sets up alternate perspectives so that you can see past your own limitations. It works by looking at the situation through the eyes of a completely different person. By imagining how another person would behave in your situation, you can discover some simple but effective solutions.

The process is easy:

  1. Make up 3 different characters. Three people that are nothing like you.
  2. Give them names, occupations, and try to make a rough mental picture of how they look. Remember that the less like you the better.
  3. Spend a couple of minutes thinking about the details of these people’s fictional lives. Give them personalities and a few habits. Base them on someone you know, or just pull the characters out of the air if that is easier. Get to know them because they are going to help you solve a lot of problems in the future.

So far, this should only take you 10 minutes or so. At the end you should have a memorable trio of helpers ready to give you a new perspective on a problem. So put them to work.

Pose your problem to each of your characters in turn. Quickly write down 10 responses from each. Assuming that Steven Styverson is one of your fictional characters, the question would be:

“What would Steven Styverson do in this situation?”

Simply because you are attempting to answer the question on behalf of someone very different from you, you will come up with some remarkable solutions. No matter what situation you put Steven Styverson in, you will come up with solutions that would not naturally occur in your thoughts. You will easily come up with 10 ways forward. All you have to do then is decide which you can use in the real world and then put the solutions to work.

It all sounds too childish to work, but if you develop your characters carefully, it will be effective. Don’t be put off by its simplicity, this is a high powered technique. If you put your imagination to work, you will soon end up with too many solutions rather than too few.

Here are 3 fictional characters that have helped me solve problems as I looked from their perspective.

  1. Mrs Ruffle, A friendly old grandmother. Addicted to knitting and gossip. Never without a cup of tea. A shrewd bargain hunter. Shuffling around the neighbourhood talking with everyone she meets.
  2. Steven Styverson, a hard nosed business man. Refined and restrained. Perfectly disciplined and cold. Conformist and conventional.
  3. Ritz Paris, a celebrity socialite. Famous for being famous. Known by everyone and always in the social pages. Never seen alone.

These caricatures are 100{54c12dad2cc2b53ae830e39915b1a3e70288dbcbbeb8bbf8395437c5dc3c512c} stereotypical and politically incorrect, but they work. They usually provide about 10 solutions, to any problem that I feed them, very quickly. The reason that they quickly and easily come up with these solutions is because these fictional characters are so different to me. They are different in personality, habits, behaviours and attitudes. Their different perspective is what makes the solutions so useful.

Early this morning I used this method with these 3 characters on a problem that I have been stuck on for a while. I came up with a total of 28 ideas of what these three fictional characters would do. I discovered that I could use (after a little modification) 13 of those ideas.

They include some conventional ideas and some quite remarkable. In looking over them now, they seem so obvious, but from my own perspective I just couldn’t see around the corner. Either way, I am no longer stuck at the blind corner.

Why not try this for yourself? Think up a few personalities that are very different to your own. Flesh out some details about each of them, to bring them to life. Then put them to work on your problems. List everything that they would do, then from that list pick the solutions that will work for you.

I hope this gives you as much success in solving problems as it has for me. And yes, I would like to thank Mrs. Ruffle, Steven Styverson and Ritz Paris for help in writing this article.

Tom O’Leary researches, writes and lives personal development that works. Join him at

image by jayniebell


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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