I was UK based and site based all last week. And I had a good week. I talked to lots of people, drank lots of coffee and walked around a lot (still counting my steps). My daughter has recently finished her second year at University and she visited for a couple of days before we drove home at the end of the week. It was great to have company during the week. It was superb to have company whilst driving.
We spoke lots during the week. It has clearly been a wonderful second year. I also spoke about some of my work, our challenges and opportunities. Our people and partners. It’s amazing how helpful this can be…to get a different perception on things. An unencumbered view. A word or two here or there. That’s all it takes. It opens up ideas and alternatives. It energises…
I have lots of favourite quotes…quotes I use (or misuse) all the time. But my all-time favourite – the top of my chart of quotes – comes from Albert Szent-Györgyi, the scientist who discovered Vitamin C. I am never sure how we should define genius, but I would definitely put Albert on my ‘genius list. He was recognised in 1937 with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Albert said that ‘Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.’
I wonder if such ability is only the purview of genius or is it something us lesser mortals can develop? Is it possible? How could we think of things that no-one else thinks of? Wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t it be a differentiator in an industry like ours where we all see such similar data?
Is it really possible to routinely (and successfully) take a different approach from everyone else? After all, we have such ‘dominant logic’ in most areas we work. Albert would advocate that the innovative thinker the individual who deliberately challenges dominant logic and is prepared to think laterally. Anyone who can identify ‘dominant beliefs’ and can look at available data from a different viewpoint, has the opportunity to offer new and distinct insight.
A simple example – Ford Motor Company once approached Edward de Bono (a famed lateral thinker) seeking advice on how to differentiate Ford from every other car maker. De Bono’s response? That Ford should buy parking lots in major cities and make them available only for Ford cars – an idea so good that it would almost convince me to switch to Ford. An idea that only appeared because Ford deliberately asked someone they knew would have a different view from their own…and an idea that came from De Bono’s ability to think laterally – how could he improve the whole driving experience for Ford customers?
So is it possible to routinely take a different view of any situation? It has to be. We just have to think differently. We have to be prepared to challenge what we see and what we hear. For example, how do we systematically look at available data from diverse perspectives – the perspective of a customer maybe? Or a patient? Or a disease? Or a competitor? Or my daughter?
In its simplest form there is such opportunity if we are willing and able to challenge our common assumptions and our dominant logic. It is possible for us to transform what we do and to deliver more, by taking an entirely different view. If we can approach scenarios, or look at our data, from entirely new directions then maybe we can truly think of things that no-one else has thought. The possibilities are unlimited…