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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Valentine’s Day is coming soon. Do you know what to get your loved one? If not, definitely read this article written by my good friend – and creative genius – Ed Bernacki. He provides 3 simple yet powerful creativity tools for finding the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Enjoy.


If you’ve ever purchased a Valentine’s Day gift that failed to impress a partner, perhaps you should consider how creative thinking tools can help you select a gift that will be rewarded, not ignored.

Picking the right gift is an exercise in problem solving. Research shows that we tend to repeat the same problem-solving mistakes:

  1. We get the definition of the problem wrong and hence solve the wrong problem.
  2. We jump on a solution assuming we already have the answer.
  3. We fail to notice the implications of our solutions.

Harness your imagination to find more innovative Valentine’s Day gifts. Treat this as an exercise in problem solving. To start, your vision is to conceive a solution that will recognize and reward your partner in a way that leads to the maximum benefit to all involved.

Tool #1: Make the implicit assumptions explicit

Sit back and take note of the assumptions you made about a problem in the past. Then question each to see if it is still valid (or if it was ever valid).

What assumptions have you made about what is an acceptable gift? Are these assumptions based on your specific interests, your partner’s, or those of the media?

Not everyone wants chocolates. Think about gifts from the past to see any patterns. Were they last-minute decisions made in desperation? Your answer should reflect your partner’s perspective, not yours! If she is trying to lose weight, chocolate may not be the right gift. For male readers, you may want to give lingerie as a gift, but does she like it? Getting this assumption wrong is serious! Try to think beyond cliché gift ideas.

One assumption that you can make is your partner wants to feel special and important. Test your gift idea with this question: Does this gift recognize my partner as someone special in my life?

Tool #2: Solve a problem while creating an opportunity

Another tool to look for possibilities is to consider what ‘problems’ your partner faces that you could solve. What is broken that needs fixing? What issues is your partner facing that you could deal with? For example, if your partner is feeling stressed at work, you could solve the problem by creating a gift that relieves this stress, such as a personal gift certificate that entitles her to a number of relaxing massages. If he needs time to develop new skills for a job, you can offer to take care of the household duties while he studies.

Such gifts show that you have noticed your partner’s issues and you want to help. Think in terms of creating an experience for your partner: Deal with the problem, but create an opportunity to share in the process.

[Note from Stephen Shapiro: This is a very powerful idea. Remember, people are most interested in having their pains solved.]

Tool #3: Six Thinking Hats to test the vitality of your idea

Edward de Bono developed a tool to improve the quality of our thinking. It is ideal to enhance and evaluate ideas. Each ‘hat’ represents a different direction of thinking designed to separate judgment and emotion from a decision. As such, consider your idea and develop your thinking further to ensure that you have a winning idea.

  1. White Hat: What are the facts that you need to know about your gift idea? This includes the cost, availability, if it’s perishable, and so on.
  2. Black Hat: What’s not so great about your idea? Be realistic.
  3. Yellow Hat: What’s good about the idea? Why will it be appealing?
  4. Green Hat: If you made the decision to push through with that idea, what else could you do to enhance the gift?
  5. Red Hat: How do you feel about the idea? Does it feel right?
  6. Blue Hat: Conclude by a making a decision whether the gift is a great idea or not.

You could also involve your children or other people in a group ‘six thinking hats’ session to help you enhance and evaluate the idea.

Good luck with finding a great Valentine’s Day gift. A little creativity may help you find a gift that is simply perfect for the moment.

Thanks Ed! This is a great thought process to use in any situation. Don’t have anyone in your life worthy of a Valentine’s Day gift? Maybe these 3 tools can help you find someone who is.

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