Think Systematically Out- of-The-Box

By Thinking Illogically & Crazily!


How do you do this?


The following adaptation from Mr. Dinh Viet Nguyen ‘Creative Thinking’ report, (Singapore Management University) to get some insights.


In 2001, a boy set out to persuade people to use electronic instead of disposable paper receipts.

He sought help from NTUC, a supermarket chain, to provide a mobile platform for its members to receive electronic receipts on their smartphones. But things did not work out. Customers found the e - receipts a chore.

They had to install a software on their hand phone. So the number of people who used paper receipts did not decrease substantially.



Years later, our protagonist mastered the PCAN model and Problem Reversal Technique from Mr. Richard Mak, author of SNAP! Creative Ideas On DemandLearn to Solve Problems Creatively in 7 Hours.












There are 4 stages in the PCAN Model.


Stage 1: Explore PROBLEM 

He wondered why people preferred paper over e-receipts. He defined his problem statement as:

In what ways might we encourage people

to use e-receipts?

Stage (2)   Seek Underlying CAUSES   

With the initial problem statement stated, he repeatedly asked ‘Why?’ to seek the root cause.













He identified the root cause. People did not feel good when they received e-receipts. Feeling is the critical factor in persuading someone act.


So he continued to ask himself:

“In what ways might we help people to feel good

when using e-receipts?”


Our protagonist knew the Problem Reversal Technique.














But Richard Mak challenged him to improvise on its application.

The step-by-step thinking processes for the Improvised Problem Reversal Technique were as follows:

The Problem Statement is:

“In what ways might we make people feel good when using e-receipts?”


Reversed problem statement:

“In what way might we make people feel depressed when using e-receipts?”



The Protagonist can think of 3 Crazy Scenarios. Each Crazy Scenario will lead to an innovative solution.

Application of the Improvised Concept Possibilities Expansion
Stage (4)   Analyze the NET Benefits   

Our protagonist weighed each solution quantitatively using these criteria:

  1. Effectiveness in encouraging people to switch to e-receipts

  2. Feasibility

  3. Cost of implementation

  4. The fun aspect


Each criterion carries a maximum score of 5. The weightage is proportional to the level of significance.

1    Effectiveness

The solution must be effective in convincing people to switch to e-receipts. This factor, our protagonist thinks, is of the highest importance. At the end of the day, the solution must contribute to the ultimate goal: ‘in what way might we encourage people to use e-receipts?’


This criterion was assigned a weightage coefficient of 5.


2    Feasibility

A solution might seem effective but when it comes to implementation we must accept only those that are feasible.


This factor was assigned a weightage of 4.


3   Cost

The more capital, resources and manpower - a potential solution requires, the more its attractiveness decreases.

This criterion was assigned a low negative weightage of 3.

4    Fun factor

Our protagonist asked himself - how he can feel good when using e-receipts? A solution will only appeal to users if they can have fun while using it.


Our protagonist ranked this criterion a weightage of 4.

Tabulated below is the Analysis of Net Benefits of the 3 new solutions.


The solution to feature fantastic-looking animals on e-receipts scored the highest. It is attractive and fun. This solution will help reduce paper wastage.




Who is this protagonist?

He can be you. He can be anyone. You can be creative with the help of the right Creative Thinking techniques. Just persevere!

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