Focus – Thinkibility Boost

focusComing up with real break-through ideas is not easy and will require some training and experience. However, the trickiest part of an idea generation session is in its first phase: defining the focus. Defining the thinking task is the first task you should undertake when you are trying something like a “20 Minutes Idea Boost”.

Defining the Focus

Often teams tend to skip this phase. They assume that the thinking task before them is clear.This is not the best approach since. . .

  • the current definition of the challenge or problem could be hindering the search for a solution
  • there may be unchecked different perceptions between the participants about what the problem or challenge is
  • the thinking task could be far too broad or abstract to get concrete ideas

Defining the wrong focus can sometimes result in great ideas, but the ideas may not be of the kind that you actually looking for – they do not solve your specific problem. You can also end up with simply poor ideas.

Example: We need ideas to deal with the shortage of maths teachers. The problem here is that teachers in maths are not well paid. Solution: raise they salary for  maths teachers. . .

To arrive at a focus shift you could use creative thinking techniques as cause-effect or foreground-background reversals, change of  system levels or any other thinking strategy.

Redefine the focus at infinity

To lessen the risk of being trapped in an obvious definition of the thinking goal – and getting obvious ideas – it helps to redefine the thinking challenge in at least 20 ways, connecting them with the statement: the problem here is. . . and. . . and. . . also. . . and not to forget. . .

Example: The problem with the shortage of maths teachers is that there are too few teachers leaving schools and also that maths teachers do have too many other tasks besides their teaching, and the problem is that the time in the class is not efficient used, and not to forget there is far too little PC aided support, and the problem is that far too much children have to learn math, and also the classes are far too big and there are too few teachers in maths because their education is too long, to elaborated. too. . . and so on. . .

Define selection criteria

Setting criteria against ideas at the end of a session are a very useful way to reflect on possible outcomes. It will prevent ” drifting”, that is coming up with wild and great ideas that are not relevant for this particular thinking task. Another advantage to setting criteria  before actual generating ideas is that it prevents a certain bias against crazy ideas, i.e. ideas that are not well-suited for overcoming the challenge.

Example: a good idea will increase the available maths teachers with at least 20 %, a good idea will reduce the amount of students that get no maths teaching with 80 % at least.  A good idea will not cost more than the salaries of maths teachers we don’t have at the pay this year. 

In Innovation – Selecting Ideas we wrote about the importance of setting criteria for what should be regarded as a good idea. This should be done before you start to generate ideas.

Make it sexy

The thinking task should be formulated in a way that is as challenging, far-reaching, provoking, imaginative and energetic as possible. The classical IWWMW – In What Ways Might We – is not real inviting, neither does ” We need ideas to improve…” ignites any real enthusiasm

Example: . At  least every child in secondary school should have 100 hrs maths a year by a qualified teacher. The amount of students that will have maths education will not exceed the available maths teachers.  How to make rock-stars of maths teachers within two years?

Make it formal

When you have finally found a promising thinking task, write it down:

  1. the subject: about what we are going to think
  2. the goal of objective: what should be reached after the thinking session: a solution, an idea, an approach, a decision, etc
  3. selection criteria for assessing ideas
  4. the sexy question

Time spent a meticulous formulating the thinking task will reward you with hopefully better ideas in less time. And all ideas will land exactly where you were aiming at. You will hit the bulls-eye – every time! Why does it work? It works because you have a clear view of the dart board.

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Marketing Strategies for Beggars – Thinkibility Nibble


There are roughly three strategies to help beggars – those who are for some reason find themselves jobless and have to collect money on the streets.

One approach is to take away the most pressing discomfort and distress by providing them with food, a shower, and shelter during the night. Another approach is to provide them with some income by giving them the opportunity to sell street newspapers, which also seems to strengthen social networks and self-esteem. Sometimes beggars are also involved in keeping an eye on the streets and cleanness in a public space. A third approach is to offer them a home in return for medical and psychiatric treatment, an initiative originated in New York.

Yet we have never found  a study or a campaign by a renowned marketing bureau like IDEO to help beggars to collect more cash. But beggars could be helped by teaching them some marketing techniques.

Most beggar’s marketing strategy is based on the idea that they should provoke pity. Some spend the day sitting on the street with a cardboard where they have written messages such as I have four kids, no income or I am jobless. Some beggars choose a more emotionally loaded place for provoking pity and guiltiness: entrances of churches, or well-filled food stores. Beggars with a more elaborated marketing strategy show their amputated limbs, display their last medicines in front of them or show humility by sitting for hours on their knees with a stretched back, murmuring for a deed of generosity.

But many beggars sit passively for hours. We have seen beggars who read a book, seemingly disconnected and detached from the collection of the money.

What marketing opportunities are missed here?

Why not a cardboard with: “I have been a philosopher”, or ” I am studying to qualify for a job outside my initial education”. or “I pray and read the bible for your salvation”?

Sometimes we have come across someone who refers to his or her website, this is something that we think is a real marketing innovation. Follow me on Twitter. Look at my LinkedIn profile before I lost my job, my home and my wife.Visit Pinterest or Instagram for pictures of my most favourite places to beg.


And look at this touching example of the use of storytelling: ” It is a beautiful day and I can’t see it”

World’s Most Interesting Reversals (1) – Thinkibility Boost

In a Reversal the usual supposed cause-effect relation between objects or subjects are turned upside down. For example, it is supposed that the establishment of a permanent observation post increases the safety of recreational sailing. A Reversal could set up that the establishment of a permanent observational post rightly effective decreases the safety of sailors. The Reversal set up could lead to the idea that permanent observation gives sailors a misplaced feeling of safety, and also that observation can only timely detect sailors in difficulties, but doesn’t prevent accidents, nor solve them if happened.

  • Reversals are applied to create opportunities to escape from patterns.
  • Carefully designed Reversals are excellent thinking strategies in attempting alternative explanations for phenomenon in medical science, sociology and psychology.


One uncommon, unique and different arrow goes in the opposite direction of the rest of the group, symbolizing unusual nature, being a rebel or innovating with creative thinking.

As a somewhat weird hobby we collected some Reversals. Some will be known to you, some will astonish or even upset you. Many “collectors items” we gratefully derived from This Explains Everything -155 thinkers about the most elegant insights all time.

  • The idea that team building can be stimulated by organizing a party with a lot of talk, fun, good food and drinks is totally wrong

Team spirit will evoke by successfully attaining goals in “weathering tests”. That teams after their trials exuberantly would party is wrongly interpreted as a condition for team spirit. Team  members will  become supportive only after overcoming an obstacle.

  • We have a certain impression that important decisions in one’s life are taken consciously.

However, biologic research shows that important decisions are taken unconsciously, but that nevertheless our brains invent acceptable explanations regarding the token decisions (Terrence J. Sejnowski). Also, people don’t behave in a way because they are so-and-so, but make conclusions about what they are by observing their own behavior (Timothy D. Wilson). Traditionally, psychological problems come from the inner part of the clients. However, self-perception theory perspective suggests that people derive their inner feelings or abilities from their external behaviors. We don’t do who we are, but we are what we do.

  • In what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls “lucretan underestimation” current risk assesment methodologies are based on the worst event ever happened (the worst recession, the cruelest war, the worst unemployment rates), not on what could happen.

He argues that nature looks forward by anticipating to what perhaps would happen, by reserving extra capacity and building up strength. Redundancy is therefore not a defensive approach. See also the three earlier blog post about building robustness in systems here.

  • Placebo’s – sugar pills with no effective medical working – are thought to have no influence on the body at all.

Sometimes patients given a placebo treatment will have a perceived or actual improvement in a medical condition, a phenomenon commonly called the placebo effect. Eric J. Topol suggests to use “placebo medication” as a therapy.

Two people are often less effective than one single person. The merely presence of some other beings prevent a single person are often than not to take adequate action in a situation.

Another examples of the inadequacy of “More Is Better” : “More ideas are better”. Actually, many inferior ideas will not even one really innovative idea. “More hands are better”: Many organisations try to solve problems by adding more resources (time, budget, workers, overseers), while fundamental redesign of the work processes could solve the problem. Often problems are solved by reducing the people involved.”Bigger is Better” or “Economies of Scale“: Many mergers, intended to improve efficiency and to reduce running costs, actually become counter productive.

  • Normally it is assumed that romantic harmony between couples is the standard with the aim of copulating is the joint reproduction of offspring.

Huge conflicts between spouses are regarded as signs of dysfunction. However, David Buss posits a radical reformulation in a theory about sexual conflict: Sexual conflict or sexual antagonism occurs when the two sexes have conflicting optimal fitness strategies concerning reproduction, particularly over the mode and frequency of mating, potentially leading to an evolutionary arms race between males and females.

  • “Dirt is not dirt, but only matter in the wrong place.” is another example of an Reversal which ensures that we will continue to question conventions.
  • Some models of human behavior in the social sciences and many economics models assume that people are on average rational, and can in large enough quantities be approximated to act according to their preferences.

The concept of bounded rationality by Herbert Simon reverses this assumption to account for the fact that perfectly rational decisions are often not feasible in practice because of the finite computational resources available for making them. Humans are not rational actors but satisficing: the idea that in decision-making, rationality of individuals is limited by the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the finite amount of time they have to make a decision.

  • The idea that “there is a someone in my head” or ” some part of my head is responsible for …” is debated by David Eagleman.

In “Incognito. The Secret Lives of the Brain” he suggests that the brain contains divers and overlapping ways to handle the world. There are a lot of “someones” in our head, a representative democracy that functions due to competition between the brain parts of which we are not conscious at all. As such, the brain is subject to neural conflicts.

  • Throughout centuries,  it has been assumed that a perceived object doesn’t change under influence of an observer.

However, quantum physics, psychology and sociology has shown that this is not true. To expand this concept it is suggested that biology is the science about behavior of biologists, physics the science about behavior of physicists. This is a Reversal of empiricism, a theory of knowledge which states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. Another Reversal of empiricism is the statement that perception without a theory is not possible. Theories like ideas, hypothesis, perspectives, perceptions, assumptions, etc. do have an important and fundamental role to acquire and enhance knowledge. Any observation takes place against the background of a theory, consciously or not. So called “Evidence-based Policy” is then more it’s Reversal: “Policy based Evidence”.

  • Most software applications are designed to assist us with thinking tasks.

But in reverse, in the “Computional Brain” computer models constrained by neurobiological data can help reveal how – networks of neurons subserve perception and behavior – how their physical interactions can yield global results in perception and behavior, and how their physical properties are used to code information and compute solutions.

A last Reversion, to reflect on: To get a good idea the standard approach is to search for better ideas. A reversed approach is to get rid of a bad idea. Doing so helps to suppress simple, obvious but not effective attempts whereby a better solution can arise.

figure_ground_reversal_by_mystiedo-d5yo2zzIn a following blog post we will continue with some World’s Most Interesting Reversals. In the meantime, you are invited to subscribe to our blog.

Left Out


Something missing?

Well, you can safely assume that any information you are presented with has some relevant information “Left Out”.

The originator’s perspective, the logic bubble in which he perceives the world and how the  information is applied are some possible reasons for the missing information.

Also we may unconsciously miss the presented information because it doesn’t fit in our logic bubble or it contradicts our value system (we are biased). Left Out

What is Left Out could be accident or we may simply not be aware of it. But information could also be Left Out deliberately. It could be a way of framing or spinning an uncomfortable truth. Politicians and their spokesmen and women are notoriously for their way of deviating from the “truth”.

If confronted with a report,  from an accountancy or consultancy firm or from a parliamentary inquiry, be alert of Left Outs.

Don’t trust pleas from State prosecutors. Although they are legally required to seek the truth, as employees they are vulnerable for pressure from bosses and society to get suspects to get defendants convicted and to Left Out exculpatory evidence to the accused.

Left Out strategies are a proven means of  state-owned and private press enterprises. In a next blog post we will delve in the patterns of daily news to explore the mechanisms of press logic bubbles.

An interesting question has been posed by Eric Drexler in his contribution to How The Internet Changes The Way You Are Thinking: Nowadays we see better what there is not there.

Could we use the Internet to use the principle of Detection of Absence to develop knowledge, to test existing knowledge and to destroy anti-knowledge (wrong ideas)? Eric launches the idea to set up a Wikipedia, but not an encyclopedia with consensually validated information as “right”, but one with known controversies about facts. In such a kind of Wiki both sides gives as biased as possible but with their best proofs and fully documented their”facts”.

Make it a habit to ask yourself, before continuing reading beyond the heading of an article, title of a book or jumping to the summary of a report, “what is Left Out”. This could be a first step to a critical examination and exploration of the facts and information value of what you are about to start reading.

  • What is Left Out?
  • What information is relevant?
  • What information should be provided?

See also our blog post about Cassandra information.

Photo: “Left Coloured Dice Shows Www. Addresses” by Stuart Miles