Thursday, October 15, 2015

How Master Shifu follows a bright spot to train Kung Fu Panda

Among the various approaches to problem solving, “Following a bright spot” is an important one. One my favourite examples that illustrates the bright spot approach is from the animated film “Kung Fu Panda”. Here is how it goes:

Everybody including the panda named Po is in a state of disbelief when Grand Master Oogway selects Po as the Dragon Warrior.

Fat panda can’t even see his toes, let alone touching them.

Master Shifu tries to train him the hard way. He figures that the panda would get frustrated and leave. But panda persists. The master also realizes that the traditional approach would not work for panda. And then one day…

Master Shifu finds Po with a full split several feet above the ground. “How did you get up there?” asks Master Shifu.

“I don’t know...I am just getting a cookie,” says Panda. That’s when the Master discovers the bright spot. A situation where things are working well – Panda can do anything to get the food. Master Shifu applies it everywhere:

“I say you are free to eat,” Master Shifu tells Po but never letting him actually get hold of the food. Thus begins a new training regime.

This is the “bright spot” approach. It can be applied to any problem. Ask yourself, “Is there any corner where things are working well (or the problem is not as severe)?” If so, can you replicate the situation? Note that the approach focuses on the situation and not on the personality traits. The assumption is that the situation is more powerful than the personality traits in triggering specific behaviour. The bright spot approach also assumes that the seed of the solution is always lurking within the problem area. If you have not seen it yet, then it is because you have not looked hard enough.

Image source: Multiple YouTube clips

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