Exercise – What would Hercules do?

(Suggested time : 10-20 minutes)


This exercise required a complex/messy/wicked problem that you’ve been dealing with recently. Preferable it should be one that you’ve become “stuck” after already thinking about it for some time.

The exercise

(3 minutes) Describe the issue. What is it about? What are the unknowns=Who are the main people involved? What do they want? What are you trying to achieve? What are you trying to avoid?

(3 minutes) Pick a hero of your choice. Describe them. What are their strengths and superpowers?

(3 minutes) How might your superhero deal with your problem? Make a list of actions and possible solutions. Keep going, even if the ideas start to become ridiculous.

(9 minutes) If you have time, repeat the exercise with a completeley different “superhero”

(3 minutes) Look at the list of solutions that you came up with. Underline the ones that seem most interesting. For the ones that seem most ridiculous, consider if there is a way to make it workable. Write it down and if interesting enough, underline it.


This is a relatively simple creative problem-solving exercise designed to break us out of “ruts” or established thinking patterns. It depends on you committing fully to the fiction. Take it to the extreme, embrace absurdity and ridiculousness, and don’t filter anything until the very last step.
But, as with most of these exercises: if it doesn’t work, don’t worry, just modify it, or try something completely different.

Beyond words

We often get stuck in established thinking patterns, especially when dealing with problems that are extremely complex or in which we have an emotional investment. It can be useful to a small toolkit of ways to break us out of those patterns and “widen” our pool of solutions. This is one of several such techniques in this book.

If you do this exercise, please fill out the exercise feedback form in the sidebar. For added benefit, you could fill out the feedback form a day or two later and use it to reflect on the exercise.

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