How to think what no one else thinks

By Paul Sloane

How can you think of things that no-one else thinks of? The answer is by deliberately taking a different approach to the issue from everyone else. There are dominant ideas in every field. The innovative thinker purposefully challenges those dominant ideas in order to conceive new possibilities.

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, who discovered Vitamin C, said, “Genius is seeing what everyone else sees and thinking what no-one else has thought.” If you can identify the standard viewpoint then survey the situation from a different viewpoint you have an excellent chance of gaining a new insight. When Jonas Salk was asked how he invented the vaccine for polio he replied, “I imagined myself as a virus or cancer cell and tried to sense what it would be like.”

Ford Motor Corporation asked Edward de Bono, who originated the concept of lateral thinking, for some advice on how they could clearly differentiate themselves from their many competitors in car manufacturing. De Bono gave them a very innovative idea. Ford had approached the problem of competing from the point of view of a car manufacturer and asked the question, “How can we make our cars more attractive to consumers?” De Bono approached the problem from another direction and asked the question, “How can we make the whole driving experience better for Ford customers?” His advice was that Ford should buy up car parks in all the major city centers and make them available for Ford cars only. His remarkable idea was too radical for Ford who saw themselves as an automobile manufacturer with no interest in the car parks business.

The spectators at the Olympic Games in Mexico City in 1968 were amazed to see a young athlete perform a high jump with his back to the bar. Until then, every high jumper ‘rolled’ over the bar with his or her face down. Dick Fosbury, and American, introduced an entirely new approach, the ‘flop’, leaping over with his back close to the bar and his face up. Fosbury was ranked 48th in the world in 1967; yet in 1968 he caused a sensation when he won the Olympic Gold Medal with his unprecedented technique and a leap of 2.24metres. What he introduced was literally a leap of the imagination – and it revolutionized high jumping. Nowadays all the top jumpers use his method. He thought what no-one else thought and conceived a new method.

How can we force ourselves to take a different view of a situation? Instead of looking at the scene from your view try looking at it from the perspective of a customer, a product, a supplier, a child, an alien, a lunatic, a comedian, a dictator, an anarchist, an architect, Salvador Dali, Leonardo da Vinci and so on. Apply the What if? technique. Challenge all the common assumptions. If everyone else is looking for the richest region, look for the wettest. If everyone else is facing the bar then turn your back on it.

If you had to study a valley, how many ways could you look at it? You could look up and down the valley; you could scan it from the riverside or stand and look across it from each hillside. You could walk it, drive along the road or take a boat down the river. You could study a satellite photo. You could peruse a map. Each gives you a different view of the valley and each adds to your understanding of the valley. Why not do the same with any problem? Why do we immediately try to frame a solution before we have approached the problem from multiple differing perspectives?

The great geniuses did not take the traditional view and develop existing ideas. They took an entirely different view and transformed society. Picasso took a different view of painting; he saw cubes, shapes and impressions instead of accurate images. Einstein imagined a new approach to physics; a world where time and space were relative. Darwin conceived a different view of the origin of species; he saw how they might have evolved rather than been created. Each of them looked at the world in a new way. In similar fashion Jeff Bezos took a different view of book retailing with, Stelios took a new perspective on flying with Easyjet, Swatch transformed our view of watches and IKEA changed the way we buy furniture.

If we can attack problems from entirely new directions then we can think of things that conventional thinkers miss. It gives us unlimited possibilities for innovation.

Source: InnovationTools

Keeping employees engaged is critical during an economic downturn. Here are some smart ways to do it.

In the months after September 11, as business activity slowed to a crawl, Steve Kerr, then the chief learning officer at Goldman Sachs (GS), launched a leadership seminar for senior managers that he nicknamed “Motivating Without Money.” The daylong sessionsdiscussed how Goldman’s managers could use nonfinancial incentives to energize their staff. While well received, the seminar was discontinued when business perked up again a year or so later.

Last fall, however, Goldman brought it back, widening the audience to include Goldman’s clients. (It’s now called “Motivating Your People in a Challenging Environment.”) “We got more people than I expected,” recalls Kerr, now a senior advisor to the bank and author of a new book, Reward Systems. As for why bonus-obsessed Wall Street hotshots would be so receptive to his “money isn’t everything” message, Kerr says: “I guess any reward in tough times is valuable.”

Read more

Marshall Goldsmith is one of the best authors / coaches i regularly read.

You won’t get to the top without it. To build your self-confidence, believe in yourself, don’t worry about being perfect, and put up a brave front.

Read More

Follow him on his website

Best Employers in India-2009

Hewitt Associates announced Hewitt Best Employers in India 2009.

The Judges selected 25 Hewitt Best Employers in India 2009.
25 Companies that kept employees smiling even in the slowdown.

The results are presented in ranked order:




HCL Technologies


Hindustan Zinc Ltd.


Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces


Cisco Systems


ITC-Welcomgroup (A division of ITC Ltd.)


Intuit Technology Services Pvt Ltd


Eureka Forbes Limited


LG Electronics India Pvt Ltd.


Domino’s Pizza India Ltd


Marriott Hotels India Pvt Ltd


Godrej Consumer Products Ltd


Becton Dickinson India Pvt. Ltd


Stryker Global Technology Center Pvt. Ltd.


NetApp India Private Limited


The Oberoi Group


vCustomer Corporation


Paypal India Private Limited


Accenture Services Pvt Ltd


Kotak Mahindra Bank Limited


Whirlpool Of India Limited


Intelenet Global Services


The Hong Kong And Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited


Hewlett Packard India Sales Pvt. Ltd


Indian Oil Corporation Ltd


Ford India Pvt Ltd

The study procedure involves surveying the participating organizations using 3 instruments developed by Hewitt which are:

  1. The Employee Opinion Survey (to gauge the level of employee engagement and gather information on employee perceptions of their work environment),
  2. People Practices Inventory™ (to gather information about philosophies, practices, and policies that influence the management of people) and
  3. CEO questionnaire;

followed by ‘blind’ judging by external jury panel. All judging is ‘blind’ in that each set of organizational data is assigned a code and the judges don’t know the company name until after their decisions are made. Eventually, organizations that are able to demonstrate a high level of employee Engagement and a strong alignment of their people practices with their business strategy are selected by the jury members as the Best Employers.

Source: Hewitt Associates

The engaging brand present a talk with Nick McCormick who is a delivery manager for an IT services company and who has
written a great little book on tips and practical advice for managers
called Lead Well and Prosper. What is good about this book was the realism…he talks about moving from mediocre to great!! Nick and I discuss

  • Is management as a skill in crisis?
  • The importance of managers having a realistic look at their own development and skill level.
  • Why is management so difficult?
  • Tips on moving from reading about management to becoming a better manager.
  • How change is uncomfortable.
  • How to make time for development in your busy schedule.
  • How power does not come from a title
  • What would be the best tip that Nick could give to improve your management skill?
  • How it is not difficult to stand out as a good manager as there is so many mediocre ones out there!

Don’t forget to subcribe to the show in iTunes or on the Blubrry site.

Listen Here

For companies planning to launch new initiatives during uncertain times, it’s important “to know from the start that the plan is wrong,” according to Ian MacMillan, Wharton professor of innovation and entrepreneurship. Assumptions are what get most companies into trouble, MacMillan and co-author Rita Gunther McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School, argue in their new book, Discovery-Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity.

In an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, McGrath and MacMillan describe how firms tend to approach growth in ways that hurt them, and what they can do to make the most of new opportunities, even during the current downturn. It’s not failure that companies need to avoid, they say, but rather “failing expensively.”

Read the interview here

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