29 Impossible Thinking

Thinking about How to Accomplish the Impossible

We've looked at thinking outside the box and abductive thinking. For a tool to really take your mind beyond boundaries, look no further than impossible thinking. You take your headscratcher and expand it so that it's impossible to solve. Then you ask the question: If you had to solve this problem—if it were necessary to solve or if you would die if you didn't solve it—what would you do?

A few things happen when you have an impossible conversation. First, it's a ridiculous conversation, so you acknowledge that everything said or suggested—the whole conversation—is stupid. As a result, quiet folks with great ideas start to speak up, because nothing discussed can be incorrect. Even more exciting, the ridiculous ideas normally shot down are now acceptable. Because the whole conversation is impossible, every idea is a good one, no matter how impossible. Even more amazing, because it's an impossible conversation, your brain can't make the determination that a thought isn't important, so it no longer discards ideas.

This simple exercise will demonstrate impossible thinking. Remember the nine dots exercise in “Outside-the-Box Thinking,” in which you had to connect the dots using four lines without lifting pen from paper? Now do it with one line. (Try it before reading the next sentence.) In our workshops, someone usually shouts within 5 to 10 seconds, “Use a thick marker!” Nobody makes that suggestion when it's possible ...

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