Possibility thinking

Posted on 27/01/2011


“If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” – Gandhi

Language is very powerful, listen to someone like Wade Davis and he will tell you it could be the most powerful part of being human. And we use lots of words at work to describe our position on issues/projects/ideas, let me know how many times you hear these in a day:

  • Conservative
  • Optimistic
  • Pessimistic
  • Potential
  • Bold
  • Aggressive

And one of my favourite words, ‘possibility’ – and in fact everytime you ask a question, there is a better chance you will find possibility. One of my favourite people on this topic, is Ben Zander, who wrote a fantastic book called the ‘Art of Possibility’, you can see him here at one of my favourite talks:

As we embark on 2011, and with a brilliant new vision for the company, please take a watch of his talk…a couple parallels:

1) Selling shoes in a new market; One salesperson: ‘They do not wear shoes. Market is dead’ Other salesperson: ‘They do not wear shoes. Market is wide open!’

He goes on later in the talk about how only 3% of the population like classical music, and if only we could get that to 4% (sound familiar?). He asks: ‘How would you walk and talk if you only wanted to increase the market share by 1%? and then how would you walk and talk if you wanted everyone to love classical music’. This is the type of thinking we need to start with, how about everyone having a  product from Capital One, EVERYONE! Now, if we only get to 10% it might seem like we have failed, although it will be much better then only raising the number by 1%.

2) I have a dream, although not sure if everyone is up for it…

A quote from later in the talk as he discusses the idea of connecting one piece of music from begginning to end, from B to E, all on one buttock! And he says it is like ‘birds that fly over the fences, to get across the fields’. The most important part of having a vision, is that is exactly that a vision. It is not a plan or a goal or an objective, it is a vision…of what the future could look like. As we contemplate the challenges and the future, remember to be the bird flying across the fields and above the fences.


3) Why am I clapping, because you are listening!

Near the end he shares that after 25 years of conducting, he realised that a conductor does not make a sound; his power comes completely from making others more powerful. That is equally true in a company, the only way for us to achieve the vision is for each and everyone to be more successful in what they do everyday. And a great indication of this is his ‘shining eyes’ measure of success, I have seen some of those when you talk about the vision, and when we all have shining eyes we will know we are onto something special.

Cheers, Steve


Where do good ideas come from – Steven Johnson: beautiful book with some amazing insights on the birth of great inventions and ideas.

Posted in: Business, Leadership