2015 brought us the 30th anniversary of MacGyver, an action-packed, hit TV series focused high-pressure problem solving and ingenuity. No weapons, few resources, and no way out. Ironically, this is the same place we all find ourselves in often. Enter Lee Zlotoff, award winning filmmaker, writer, producer, and MacGyver creator...and now the mind behind The MacGyver Method - systemized tactics for finding and creating solutions to any problem. Like his show, Lee has been all over the world helping organizations and individuals alike combine science, ingenuity, and existing skill sets to develop creative solutions to challenges big and small.
When I had the chance to interview him, on my podcast, Innovation Crush, Lee broke down the MacGyver Method, his theories on unleashing innovation, success of the program, partnerships with organizations like University of Michigan and the White House, and his current search for the next MacGyver. Below, you'll find a few key takeaways from our chat.
1.) Don't Worry About Resources
Seconds on the clock. Hands tied behind your back. A toothpick, a paperclip, a stick of gum and a big imagination. MacGyver did so much with so little. It's a very popular theory that the best innovation comes from constraint. Whether we've hit a personal rock bottom, given a crumb's worth of time, or simply scraping the bottom of the barrel for big ideas that fit within a tiny budget, most times the constraint we face forces us into unbridled ingenuity. This may not always come from outside forces, so feel free to set some impossible goals for you and your team from time to time.
2.) Lose the Brainstorm
Zlotoff gives away some great secrets of his not-so-brainstorm process. According to the MacGyver Method maestro, writing the problem you need to solve down on piece of paper and walking away is all you need. The psychological science behind the madness actually puts your subconscious to work at an extremely heightened level. According to Zlotoff, "studies show your subconscious is between 500,000 to 200 million times more powerful than your conscious." The only caveat is that the meantime is filled with tasks that will keep your conscious mind busy, but not overworked. Putting a puzzle together, organizing a room, playing games are all fair game for allowing your mind to work on being creative, so that you don't have to.
3.) Don't Use Weapons
The only weapon MacGyver ever used was a head full of gorgeous hair. Other than that, the '80's geek chic crime fighter never harmed a soul. The real power of being weaponless? Reducing conflict. In our day-to-day, we often come up against aggressive people and circumstances that could easily ruffle our feathers and create a similar response in turn. However, when pushing that idea through, or getting your team on board with your vision, a bit of empty handed mental judo always works best.
4.) Learn to Connect the Dots
My favorite brainstorms are the ones that force me to put square pegs in round holes. Finding a common goal or purpose for two or more disparagingly different concepts or services is a challenge that forces us far outside our creative comfort zone. The Mac did this all the time. It's the whole reason that the shoe lace, the old croissant, and the laundry detergent formed the perfect solution to stop the explosion. With a little practice and a whole lot of patience, it's also the reason you'll be able to work with whatever conditions and components are thrown your way.