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Looking at things differently

Monday, 1 June 2009

I was rather taken with part of a recent episode of Genius, on BBC1 (, not because of the genius of a particular idea, but because it highlighted just how differently people can look at things.

Two guys were proposing a new theory of opposites, based on function. As an example, instead of the opposite of “knife” being “fork”, it would be “glue” - one divides things, one puts them together. Or the opposite of “hair” being “an ice hat”.

What got to me about this was the potential we all have for seeing things in a traditional, conservative way, rather than thinking more broadly. This effectively limits the possibilities open to us, rather than opening up new avenues of thought.

In management, the question “what if” is one of the single most important:

“What if we had all the resources we needed”
“What if our competitors launched before us”
“What if that product is technically better than ours”
“What if we tried this differently”
“What if the price of raw materials doubles”

Challenging the underlying assumptions behind our thought processes and decisions, and unravelling them to understand whether they will always apply of not gives us the opportunity to think very differently about things, and open up new possibilities.

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