According to sociologist Dr. James Tanner, “We see what we expect to see, and we expect to see what we’ve already seen.” How true! Just consider the 24/7 news coverage surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian flight 370.
Despite more than a month of non-stop speculation, none of the experts in the media has advanced a single new theory. Instead they’ve addressed the question of “What happened to flight 370?” as if it were a multiple choice question to which there is only a finite list of potential answers, all of which have occurred in the past.
When it comes to perceiving our own situations, anticipating our own risks, and considering our own opportunities, many of us do the same thing – we look to our past to determine our future.
But what if the disappearance of flight 370 was caused by circumstances we've never seen before? What if it was a state sponsored hijacking? What if someone intentionally evaded radar, landed the plan in an unknown location, and kidnapped one or more of its passengers - perhaps a
nuclear physicist or some other high-value target? Or, what if someone flew the plane low enough for an accomplice to flee with a captive by parachute, then ditched the plane in the ocean? Are these ideas crazy? Probably. But just because these scenarios never occurred before doesn't mean they aren't possible.
If we only see what we expect to see, and we expect to see what we’ve seen before, we will inevitably overlook new risks and opportunities.
Before 9/11, the risk of terrorists using commercial jets as missiles was virtually unthinkable, and prior to Hurricane Katrina federal engineers never anticipated that a major storm surge would breach the levees protecting New Orleans. Why? Because those things had never happened before.
When the movie industry learned Walt Disney was producing a full length animated film called Snow White, they dubbed the project “Disney’s Folly.” And when Colonel Sanders attempted to sell his famous KFC recipe to other restaurants prior to opening one of his own he was rejected over one-thousand times. Why? Because no one had ever done cartoons or chicken like that before.
Be creative! Look beyond what you've seen before. Consider new risks, innovate new solutions. Pursue new opportunities.
Whether you are trying to assess your current business model, manage risk for your organization, or increase workplace productivity, open your mind to crazy new ideas. Even if they’re not probable, they may be entirely possible.
As a performance consultant I can help you do what you do best, only better, and I can help you do things you've never done before, too. Consider the possibilities...