What did you see differently?

Your Friday Trigger Question for 29 January 2021

  • Note #1: Is this your first Friday Trigger Question? Here’s what it is. A weekly question to make you stop, think and act. How you do that is entirely up to you.
  • Note #2: This is the final “free” Friday Trigger Question. From next week it will only be sent to clients, to Patreon patrons and to Substack subscribers.

Today I will share two fairy tales with you. Why fairy tales? Well, both stories start with “Once upon a time…” And these are fairy tale times, whether or not we like it.

First Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there lived a race of humans who thought and acted as if “seeing is believing.” Hang on! Most people still think and behave as if seeing is believing, so how can this be a fairy tale? Well, social scientists have now showed again and again that we are more likely to see what we already believe. For example, if you believe in UFOs you will see a UFO where others see a meteor, the space station, a weather balloon, a drone, a whatever. We project what is in us, out there. And then we believe what we see. Or not.

As long as we reject evidence that is objective (and, heaven forbid, scientific!) in favor of our overly subjective wishful thinking, we will live trapped in a fairy tale. We seem to have forgotten that fairy tales always have at least a villain, an ogre, a giant, a monster, a politician, or all of the above.

Second Fairy Tale

A long, long time ago… Sorry. Let me start again. Once upon a time, two shoe-salesmen (in those days they were men) went to Africa. (You probably have heard this story many times. But I’m from Africa. I cannot resist repeating it. Often.) Soon one wrote to his boss, “Coming home. People don’t wear shoes.” The other telegraphed his office, “Urgent. Send shoes. Huge untapped market.” Both were looking at the same market, but seeing it differently.

(What does seeing differently give you? Seeing differently gives you insight. And what does insight give you? The opportunity, the choice, to behave and act differently. But that’s another fairy tale.)

Today shoes are more common in Africa, so we know which salesman was not living a fairy tale. But even today there are many people in Africa who don’t wear shoes. I used to be one of them. I spent 79,52% of my childhood without wearing shoes. So did my friends. That did not mean that we had no shoes. And yet, what do you think a passing salesman would have assumed when he saw us running around without shoes?

The Eskimo, the food, the fridge and the climate

We fall into the seeing-is-believing trap when we ignore relationships. Our eyes see objects, but not the relationships between the objects. Shoes are objects. The salesman sees them and understands them. The relationship between our bare feet and our activities showed why shoes were not only unnecessary, but unwanted. The salesman did not see that and could not understand it.

I think Peter Drucker can explain it better, as he so often did: “Selling refrigerators to the Eskimos to keep food cold is one thing. But selling refrigerators to the Eskimos to keep food from freezing is creative.” (Or words to that effect.)

His point? Unless you see the relationship between the objects involved, (the fridge, the food, the climate, the Eskimo), you will only see the functionality of the fridge. You will then believe that Eskimos do not need fridges. And yet, Eskimos could use a device which prevents food from freezing while keeping it fresh.

One of these days Eskimos will need a fridge for the same reason we do, and that’s no fairy tale.

Your Friday Trigger Question(s):

This past week, what did you see differently? And what insight did it trigger?

  • If you only saw the same old same old, then try this next week: Don’t focus on the objects in your life. Focus on the relationships between the objects.