The Power of Impossible Thinking

At some point in your career your company is going to be whacked – and not by Tony Soprano. Someone or some organization is going to come up with a new strategy or product and leave you eating dust.

Hopefully, it will be temporary. But it’s the nature of competition.

And you’ll wonder:

How can I make sure it won’t happen again? By harnessing the power of impossible thinking, say the authors.

Yoram Wind and Colin Crook of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business school argue that our mindsets (or mental models, as they call them) can block creative, imaginative, unorthodox thinking that can lead to business transformation.

To break out, you have to recognize how you judge the world, keep what you need and be open to new ideas.

This isn’t revolutionary, but Wind and Colin offer useful lists of ways to keep the grey matter between your ears from stagnating.

The central evidence comes in the form of brief profiles of Howard Schultz of Starbucks, who left the company after it refused to go along with his idea of coffee bars and took it over with historic results; broadcaster Oprah Winfrey, who brought her own style to talk TV and created a media empire; and Andy Grove of Intel, who runs a modest chipmaker and encourages doom sayers in the company to give early warning of impending change.

As I said, they are brief — and come at the end of the book — which isn’t helpful in buttressing what is supposed to be a detailed, convincing argument. However, I had more difficulty with simplifications and speculations scattered in earlier chapters.

The fall of Enron (with trials yet to start who knows what really happened) and Marconi (a section studded with the word “”may have been””) are just some of the irritations..

My advice: Ignore the sketchy personal and corporate examples and go for the practical advice in the middle and last chapters. That way you’ll find this less of a mission impossible.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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