E-commerce and Daily Thinking – A Thinkibility Nibble

In our blog post Daily Thinking – Discovering Patterns we showed some alarming daily thinking habits, like assuming that there is a linear, unambiguously relation between a cause and an effect. For example, it is assumed that increasing e-commerce will reduce traffic. People will less … Continue reading

Sub-boxing Everywhere

In all highly developed civilizations, we see a trend to more:

  • segmentation: division into segments
  • specialization: made or used for one particular purpose, job, place, etc.
  • differentiation: development from the one to the many, the simple to the complex, or the homogeneous to the heterogeneous
  • classification: a category into which something is put

You could say that products, jobs, scientific disciplines, processes, phenomena, etc are continually divided up into smaller parts or “conceptual boxes”. The consequence is that such societies become more complex: finding the right “box” and making choices are becoming increasingly laborous and burdensome.

Segmentation is one of the eight trends in TRIZ that predicts the future development of a system that could happen. Below some examples:

Sub-specialties of cardiology are developed along electrical properties of the heart, the use of ultrasound, catheters, and nuclear medicine.

In economics and marketing, product differentiation (or simply differentiation) is the process of distinguishing a product or service from others, to make it more attractive to a particular target market.

Some hundred years ago sport shoes were invented as an alternative of the rather rigid all-day-shoe of leather. Nowadays for nearly any sport there is a specialized shoe available, specifically designed for that sport.

Sometimes the further segmentation reaches to the point of absurdity:


Market segmentation is a marketing strategy which involves dividing a broad target market into subsets.


Segmentation has been one of the strongest strategies in marketing as it is traditionally practiced. If you enter a new category, you attempt to create a product that is distinct from those already there, by carving out a niche. However, segmentation is a more-of-the-same strategy and could be easily counterproductive because it is based on the existing products and markets. Instead of fighting over an ever decreasing fragment of a market, by transforming a product enough to make it suitable to satisfy new or different needs, it is possible to create a new market. It is called lateral marketing.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) offers a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders.The DSM-I, from 1952, listed 106; the DSM-III, from 1980, listed 265, and the current DSM-IV has 297 mental disorders. It means that over 5o% of all Americans will have a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetimes. It seems that “b0xing”and “sub-boxing” provoke their own dynamics, as explained in this interesting article: Abnormal is the New Normal by Robin S. Rosenberg


The Charm of Imperfection


In an earlier post about focus, we stressed the importance of paying attention to the focus of the thinking. Taking a problem or challenge unquestioned as it exposes itself may lead to brilliant solutions for the wrong problem. It is therefore required to pay substantial time and effort to (re)define the focus of the thinking.

The problem of attention is best illustrated by the figure-ground phenomenon:  it is known as identifying a figure from the background. For example, you see words on a printed paper as the “figure” and the white sheet as the “background”. However, it is possible to define the white sheet as the “figure”and the “background” as the printed words. Some examples of figure–ground perception shift are:

Figure–ground perception can be expanded from visual perception to include abstract (i.e. non-visual) concepts such as melody/harmony, subject/background, and positive/negative space. The concept of figure and ground fully depends on the observer and not on the item itself.

In art, is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space occasionally is used to artistic effect as the “real” subject of an image. It is called Negative Space. The Japanese word “Ma” is sometimes used for this concept, for example, in garden design.

With respect to presented information we called this phenomenon “Left Out” and “Cassandra information“: What is not there?

Left Out

What is not mentioned in the report, intentionally or unconsciously?

We will take the figure-ground reversal a little bit further. Normally, we strive for perfection– broadly, a state of completeness and flawlessness. We value strength, beauty, completeness, velocity, winning etc. Let’s shift focus to the negative face. What is the beauty of imperfection? Amazingly, there is no such page in Wikipedia neither in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Ripping or distressing of jeans, though also arising naturally as a result of wear and tear, is sometimes deliberately performed by suppliers – with distressed clothing sometimes selling for more than a non-distressed pair. For example, Pucci sold “embellished mid-rise boyfriend jeans” for $860 USD. In other times it would be a sign of poverty.

The Golden Raspberry Awards is an award ceremony in recognition of the worst in a film. Most winners do not attend the ceremony to collect their awards.  Notable exceptions include Tom Green (Worst Actor/Worst Director), Halle Berry and Sandra  Bullock (Worst Actress), Michael Ferris, Joe Eszterhas (Worst Screenplay), and Paul Verhoeven (Worst Director)

“The Bad Hemingway Contest” is an annual writing competition that has been held for nearly thirty years, the contest pays mock homage to Ernest Hemingway by encouraging authors to submit a ‘really good page of really bad Hemingway’. Also to mention the “Hemmingway Look-alike Society”, a bunch of “portly gray-bearded old men.”: not being unique is the pursue, but striving for the likeness of someone else is worth pursuing.


It is all about focus shift

It is all about perception shift. A shift from looking for perfection to valuing imperfection. In Japan, it is called Wabi-sabi the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”

What about the 25 inventions that are completely pointless, as a Car Exhaust Grill or a sadomasochistic tea kettle?

Leaning towers seem to attract a lot more visitors than towers standing upright.

A choir for people who cannot sing and are tone deaf was started by Nadine Cooper, 48, who wanted to join a singing group but never had the courage because she was aware she could not stay in tune. Her self-consciousness started when she was a child after a music teacher ordered her to keep her mouth shut because of her awful singing.A tuneless choir for those who . . .well can’t sing: Listen, this bunch is really hair-raising the roof!

 There are hundreds of quotes about imperfection:
At last, imperfection is even a subject of serious studies, for example, “On Ugliness” by  the legendary   Italian novelist, literary critic, philosopher, semiotician and university professor  Umberto Eco.

What Kind of Thinking Situation Is This?

When we deliberately think about something, it is very important to have a precisely defined focus. What should be the outcome of the thinking? If we know what outcome we want, then it is not that difficult anymore to know what thinking steps to do.

To get a good focus, it is helpful to ask for ourselves what kind of thinking that should be done, what the context of the thinking is, or what the thinking situation is. In the image below some 30 thinking situations are shown.

 Thinking Situations

For every thinking situation mentioned above exist a well defined thinking road map, either in CoRT, Lateral Thinking, Six Thinking Hats or TRIZ.

Also is it possible to Google : tool < thinking situation >. F.e. “tool negotiation

Chances are that you will be referred to Mindtools.com. The whole Mind Tools toolkit contains more than 900 management, career and thinking skills. Anther source for a variety of thinking techniques is Van Gundy’s Techniques of Structured Problem Solving. Despite dating  from 1988 it is still current.  The book also evaluates  advantages and disadvantages of each technique based on available experience and efficacy studies. More than 100 techniques are classified according to the phase in the problem solving process:

  • Pre-Problem Solving
  • Redefining and Analyzing the Problem
  • Generating Ideas
  • Evaluating and Selecting Ideas
  • Implementing Ideas

However, it is far better to design your own thinking road map because it will help you to “get grips upon the thinking task”. Designing your thinking steps is essentially a Blue Hat Thinking task or a metacognitive task.

  get thinking

Thinking Strategies: It’s Time to Plan the Thinking

Since we began this blog, we have discussed a range of Thinking Strategies to enhance capabilities to think about a subject. Thinking Strategies are process designs for thinking. It gives you a global approach for thinking. Thinking Strategies allow you to make a map of the thinking situation before you enter the area. It allows you Thinkibility-on-the-Spot. Image

Have a nice summer reading!

Where To Search for New Ideas? – Thinkibility Nibble

Where to search for ideas A surgical team in a hospital realised that their activities became more and more complex, partly because of the treatments that they were offering but also by an increase of the number of people involved. They looked for better ideas, outside their box of thinking. They visited an aircraft carrier, a pit stop at auto races, a plumber’s skills contest and a high risk chemical plant. What kind of ideas may they have got? From the seemingly chaos at a flight deck of an aircraft carrier: How repairs are practised as fast as possible at pit stop: From a plumbers’ skill contest:to get ideas how to repair clogged arteries: They also realised that they were far behind aviation regarding safety standards and creating a “fail safe” culture. They approached safety expert from NASA and chemical and other high risk industries. Slowly medical teams are introducing Failure Mode and Effect Analysis, a structural approach to decrease errors.  There are lots of ideas that can be derived from outside your area of knowledge and your circle of colleagues. There are lots of areas of experience you are not normally connected to and which may be loosely related to your job. Perhaps there are no connections at all between your domain of operating and where fresh but proven ideas can be found. A department of accountants is worrying about the increasing data they had to process and at the same time the increasing demand for reliability and speed. What do you think they will turn to? They will ask the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, a European research organization whose purpose is to operate the world’s largest particle physics laboratory. How do they process large data sets?