Imagine a solved version of the problematic situation by:
- making exceptions into the rule,
- changing the location of the complaint pattern,
- changing who is involved in the complaint pattern,
- changing the order of the steps involved,
- adding a new element or step to the complaint pattern,
- increasing the duration of the pattern,
- introducing arbitrary starting and stopping,
- increasing the frequency of the pattern,
- changing the modality of the problematic behavior.
– Steve de Shazer – Clues pp 99
Each of the above suggestions for change is useful as a skeleton key to break a pattern and cause you to notice what is different and what difference that makes.
I am cautious about ‘imagine’ because it may lead us to believe we are creating a utopian endpoint.
I’ve argued that utopian endpoints ignore the past, create self-imposed stress, and increase resistance since they are generally not achievable.
In this context, imagine is used to hold and slightly vary a pattern of thinking we currently have in the face of the problem.
Leadership, change, and problem-solving is contextual interaction. There is an example of something that is a problem, and it is worth improving. Knowing the context and observing the interactional difference within the suggestions above may be a skeleton key that is close enough to open the door to cooperation, then create some momentum towards useful change.