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How To Think Like Generative AI With This 3-Step Approach

Supercharge your problem-solving with this AI inspired 3-step approach

Hi there, welcome to PunchTime 👊 

In a world where technology evolves at breakneck speed, and AI is taking over the world, the power of strategic thinking has never been more crucial. Whether you’re a novice looking to learn or an expert looking to refresh concepts, my goal is to make strategy actionable for everyone through powerful decision-making tools, habits, mental models, systems, and frameworks and help you position yourself for success in your professional and personal life. Rock on!

Unlock Your Inner Generative Intelligence

Last week we talked about about analyzing the status quo, the future, and creating systems to execute.

Today, I want to talk about an approach that is not only used by some of the smartest minds, but is also a fundamental principle of Generative AI.

A Glimpse Into How Generative AI Works
(Feel free to skip this section if it doesn't catch your interest!)

In 2017, the paper Attention Is All You Need by Vaswani et al. introduced one of the most pivotal advancements in AI, the transformer model. It’s a lot of math, but on a high level it breaks down text into words (tokens), finds connections, context, and relationships, then weighs the importance of associated words (tokens) in an attention map, and finally reassembles the findings to create an output that is aligned to the initial instruction.

This breakthrough eventually led to ChatGPT, which many of us are using today (GPT stands for “Generative Pretrained Transformer”, see here for a great article by Cameron R. Wolfe to learn how ChatGPT works).

Attention map showing relationship of “it” to other words of the sentence (darker orange = stronger relationship)

The Deconstruct & Rebuild Approach

Since AI is modeled after the human brain, we often do this intuitively. Nevertheless, we can use an intentional strategy to elevate our thinking when trying to solve a problem or achieve a goal. I call it the DR (“doctor”) approach for “Deconstruct & Rebuild”.

On the spectrum between rational and creative thinking, “Deconstruct” is closer to the rational side, while “Rebuild” is closer to the creative side.

However, I believe that the DR approach allows us to move along that spectrum and use our rational thinking to strengthen our creativity, and then in turn use our creativity to create new impulses for our analytical side.

The DR approach consists of three steps (i) breaking things down into building blocks, (ii) identifying the levers & drivers, and (iii) creatively rebuilding the blocks. Basically an extension of the Driver Tree approach.

Break Things Down

There’s one thing all great thinkers (and AI) seem to have in common. Whenever they face a challenge, they try to simplify it by breaking the problem down into fundamental and manageable parts.

Some of the main benefits of this strategy are that it reduces stress, makes us feel less overwhelmed, and helps us understand the problem better. Examples of challenges could be planning an event, improving profitability, creating a financial forecast, building a house, moving apartments, or cooking dinner.

All of these tasks can seem overwhelming as a whole, because they’re fuzzy. But strategy helps us move things things from fuzzy to actionable. The first step in the DR approach is to break down the problem and find relationships between the parts.

My preferred techniques to break things down

1. List all attributes, parts, and relationships in a mindmap

2. Start with the problem / outcome on the left and connect all components on the right if there is a relationship

Business breakdown example (illustrative)

Personal life breakdown example (illustrative)

Identify Levers & Drivers

Now that we understand the structure and relationships of our problem, we can start to identify key drivers and levers. Similar to the attention map in AI algorithms, we analyze all the components and highlight the high impact building blocks (positive or negative).

One tactic is to start on the left side with the desired outcome and ask yourself what direct components have the biggest impact. With the components you identified, you ask yourself the same question and continue this process.

Potential key levers in a business context (illustrative)

In this fictional business example, you can see that we defined volume, marketing, and salaries as the key levers. For the healthy recipe example, our goal could have been a healthy low calorie diet and our main insight the fact that the “base” contributes to the majority of calories. We can use this in almost any situation to find the root cause.

Instead of intuition / expertise, we can take a more data-driven approach and use a simplified sensitivity analysis to find the biggest “bang for the buck” 💥:

Simplified sensitivity analysis

  1. Quantify the components (e.g. revenue, costs, volume, etc.) and how they impact each other

  2. Select the first component (e.g. costs)

  3. Analyze what happens to your desired outcome (e.g. profitability) if you increase/decrease the first element (e.g. costs) by 1%, 5%, 20%, and a 100% while leaving everything else constant

  4. Create a table with one component per row, and the steps (±1%, ±5%, ±20%, ±100%) as columns then write down the results

  5. Do this for every component and find the ones that have the biggest impact when slightly changing them

Creatively Rebuild

I hope you can see that all the preparation of breaking things down and identifying the key drivers opens the door for rebuilding and finding creative solutions.

The possibilities to play around are endless, so be creative. In fact, inventions and creative outputs are simply an innovative assembly of existing components to create something new. After all, everything is made of atoms.

Ways to rebuild and spark your creativity

Reverse
Do the opposite, e.g. play guitar riff backwards, instead of using the words “no cost” use the word “free”, instead of “push” marketing use “pull” tactics etc.

Add
Use you knowledge to add new components to the mix and see what happens

Remove
Remove existing components and see what happens

Substitute
Use a substitute, e.g. instead of fixed employees you switch to contractors, substitute ingredients in an existing recipe

Rearrange
Find new relationships between components and/or rearrange the order.

Reuse
Existing components can be reused for new use cases (e.g. rent out restaurant kitchen to food entrepreneurs on closed days)

How Can You Apply This In Real Life

Try to make it a habit of applying the DR approach to deconstruct and rebuild every problem, challenge, or creative task. The more you do it, the more intuitive it becomes and the less stressed out you’ll feel with a challenge. Soon you will realize that nothing is impossible, you can solve any challenge one piece at a time.

The DR Approach

Move back and forth across the rationality-creativity spectrum

  • Break things down

    • List all attributes and find the relationships

  • Identify Levers & Drivers

    • Ask yourself what direct components have the biggest impact (intuitively or sensitivity analysis)

  • Creatively rebuild

    • Reverse, add, remove, substitute, rearrange, reuse

That’s it for today. See below for interesting finds & jobs.

I’m always looking for feedback, thoughts, and ways to improve.

If you liked this, share it with a friend.

Also, please connect if you’re looking for someone to help brainstorm or want help with strategy, GTM, financial modeling, and innovation projects. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks & Rock on!

-Andrea

Fun and Interesting Finds

I’m convinced that the ability to think clearly and creatively is dependent on fulfillment in life. That's why I’m always on the hunt for things that bing me joy in the areas of Health, Achievements, Relationships, Knowledge, and Fun.

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