When it comes to critical thinking for your most urgent business challenges, where do you start?
Do you reach for the same old self-help books? Or maybe you turn to a trusted colleague or consultant to draw on their expertise or viewpoint?
These strategies have value, and I’m not suggesting you ditch your support network.
But I do want to offer a different approach; one that will help you push the boundaries of what you thought was possible AND potentially create some big wins for your business.
“What do Spitfires and bullet holes have to do with anything?”
Good question! Inspiration can strike from unexpected sources. And the story of Abraham Wald is a great example:
The mathematician who saved hundreds of flight crews
Wald was an eminent mathematician born in 1902, and during WW2 his amazing lateral thinking came into its own.
The US military approached him with a dilemma. Imagine the scenario:
You don’t want your planes to get shot down by enemy fighters, so you armour them.
But you want to find the optimum way of armouring the planes so that they’re as light and fuel efficient as possible.
When the planes returned back to the American base from their engagements in Europe, they were covered in bullet holes. There were more bullet holes in the fuselage, not so many in the engines.
The military saw an opportunity for efficiency; you can get the same protection with less armour if you concentrate the armour on the places with the greatest need – the places that are getting hit the most.
So their question to Wald, was:
“Exactly how much armour should we put on those parts of the plane?”
That wasn’t the answer they got.
The armour, said Wald, doesn’t go where the bullet holes are. It goes where they aren’t: on the engine.
Wald could see that the missing bullet holes were on the missing planes. The planes that got hit on the engine weren’t coming back.
Taking the statistics and evidence at hand, and applying a simple mindset shift, Abraham Wald working together with his military colleagues and engineers, saved countless planes and hundreds of lives.
The moral of the story?
Two things jump out:
- The solution might be closer than you think. All you need is a fresh pair of eyes, a slightly different perspective. Creativity – lateral thinking – is a valuable resource. Never be afraid to reach out to people beyond your skill set or industry niche to get a broader view and an ingenious solution. Think tanks and mastermind groups are a brilliant way to access new ways of thinking. Everyone brings something unique to the table and by getting involved you could reap the benefits.
- What aren’t you seeing? When you’re fixated on the problem it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Take a step back. Regroup and reset and come back to the challenge with a clear head. You might be amazed at the solutions that come up.
Do YOU have a business problem that needs solving?
Whether it’s financial or something broader that’s holding you back, I’m here to help. (I draw the line at fixing planes though).
Contact me today.