By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here are a few ideas to sharpen your problem-solving skills:
Eager to show off his newly learned arithmetic skills, the first grader stood up and blurted out the answer: “Four!” The teacher had just posed this question: “If there were five birds in a tree and you shot one of them with your slingshot, how many birds would be left? Proud of getting the answer first, the boy sat back down. And thought. A few seconds later, he stood back up, and blurted out a correction: “None!”
In those few seconds of second thought, the young boy demonstrated that he could think strategically. He could define, align and evaluate the factors — as well as the facts. In those few seconds of second thought, the young boy discerned the context as much as the content of the problem. And in those few seconds of second thought, the young boy grasped the consequence of his decision: all the birds would be scared off by a single shot.
That’s what the most effective leaders I’ve known do. They turn ordinary tunnel vision into an extra-ordinary Funnel Vision and embrace a wider array of factors that affect their decisions.
Trapped in their Tunnel Vision
The most effective leaders are wary of getting trapped in their own tunnel vision where the right decision seems so evident and ultimately so wrong. They know how easy it is to make what appears to be the right decision in the wrong context and trigger mistakes like these:
- Locked in his own tunnel vision, President Woodrow Wilson made what he thought was the right decision to keep the White House lawn trim while the landscapers at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue were fighting in World War I. But the sheep also ate the expensive flower beds. Ooops!
- Locked in his own tunnel vision, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche made what he thought was the right decision on Hitler’s orders in World War II. Porsche designed the world’s largest, strongest, most durable tank . But the 180-ton tank with 9-inch steel plating sank on the dirt roads. Ooops!
FUNNEL VISION: The Houston Astrodome
Meanwhile major league baseball officials in Houston, locked in their own tunnel vision, made two strategic thinking mistakes in building the Houston Astrodome, the world’s first multi-purposed domed sports stadium in 1965.
- Lighting glare off the translucent roof forced the outfielders to wear protective helmets. Ooops!
- Painting the roof seemed to be the right decision to curb the glare. But then the grass died without adequate natural light. Ooops!
When baseball officials in Houston broadened their tunnel vision into more strategic Funnel Vision they gave birth to a more creative, more strategic solution to solve both the lighting glare and the grass dying problems at the same time. Those officials sparked the invention of AstroTurf, artificial grass.
FUNNEL VISION: Alexander The Great
Alexander the Great exhibited this strategic sense of Funnel Vision on his 12th birthday, foreshadowing the leadership thinking that he would call upon to conquer the world 21 years later. Alexander got a wild horse as a birthday present from his father, the King of Macedon. None of the most experienced horse trainers could tame the wild horse. All of those trainers were locked in their own ordinary tunnel vision, focusing on the horse.
But Alexander reframed the problem in a broader context with his extra-ordinary Funnel Vision. He focused more on what the horse sees during a training session. Alexander discerned more strategically that the horse got spooked when it saw its own shadow. So Alexander turned the horse into the sun. The horse’s shadow disappeared. And the horse tamed down. Alexander solved the problem. With his Funnel Vision. Strategically. In context. Consequentially not simply sequentially. Just like another little boy in the first grade so many years later.
How have you leveraged your Funnel Vision? I look forward to learning from you how we can become more effective strategic thinkers. Use the Comments section below.
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