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Turn it upside down and see what you see

“Sheriff without a gun” (Andy Taylor, Mayberry)

“What if restaurants didn’t cook and serve you food?”
Merce Cunningham: the dance and the music don’t have to match up
What if cars didn’t need drivers?
These are ideas about a radical change in something familiar. We can use thinking like this to try out new ideas without being hindered by the established ways we do things. The ideas get us past the system as we know it, and let us think differently, and that’s what we need to do in exploring the future.
More often than not, a paradigm-busting idea is the pathway to a new business model, or to some breakthrough that moves us to a new place in our thinking. The radical thought doesn’t have to be the ultimate future reality, but it helps us get our thinking going. So maybe the car won’t be driverless anytime soon, but what if it could parallel park automatically for you?
Creative thinking can be about doing this instinctively—having the knack for looking at things differently. If you are like that in your creative style, lucky you! But even if you are not, it can make a difference to your work, your thinking if you let some “upside down” ideas bubble up. You may need to force the thoughts in a little bit, but then you should be able to explore what is around you with fresh eyes, and perhaps make some breakthroughs of your own.
The tools of creative brainstorming offer lots of ways to encourage, even force new thinking. You can, and should reach for them if you or your group has trouble letting go of conventional thinking. It can be as easy as just turning the view upside down (see map), or disconnecting things that are always connected (car and driver). You can do this in a simple "what if" conversation.
Why consider this in relation to foresight? In exploring the future we have much the same problem as any creative need: we tend to get stuck thinking along the same old lines, assuming much or all of what’s in front of us will be in tact in the future. It won’t.
You can break down the stuck thinking that people have about their future, and get everyone to try out some distinctly new ideas. That can lead to breakthroughs: business or service ideas, products, and so on. And it certainly helps people get ready for change that may be coming.
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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Mike Mahaffie August 26, 2009, 8:54 am

    Good point, though when I tried turning the monitor upside down the wires got all flooey. Maybe this is better with a laptop?

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