“Man is limited not so much by his tools but by his vision”

by Didier Marlier on Sunday June 6th, 2010

I love this quote from Richard Pascale and am sometimes sadly reminded of it when my partners and I or even a respected client are unable to  break the boundaries from our self-created, self-limiting “mental prisons”.

It is so exasperating when we find ourselves turning in circles (Marcial Losada’s fixed attractor?), drifting into projecting more of the past into the future than daring to dream from a white sheet of paper. Yes, one of the very strengths of mankind is its capacity to “modelize” the world which surrounds us, through language and subsequent conceptualization. This may however become our mental prison: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” Ludwig Wittgenstein used to say…

The amazing experiment here below provides an extraordinary example of what happens when “It is the framework which changes and not the picture in the frame” as Marshall McLuhan[1] (frequently quoted by Gerd Leonhard) explained. Joshua Bell is one of the world’s most admired violinists. However, in the present video, despite of playing with his original Stradivarius worth 3.5 million US$, Joshua will hardly earn 32.17 US$ in 47 minutes.

The “mental model” of the people rushing to work in a January 2007 cold early morning in Washington is understandably not programmed nor prepared for an encounter with talent and virtuosity in such an unusual location. Just like our brain doesn’t immediately register white letters on a black background (we have been used to the reverse for so long), it doesn’t register such an unique opportunity when all we have been used to see that early in a metro station are poor musicians begging for a bit of our time, respect and charity in return for their art.

Seth Godin, in a recent post[2] wrote:

“Where do you find good ideas? Do you often find ideas that change everything in a windowless conference room, with bottled water on the side table and a circle of critics and skeptics wearing suits looking at you as the clock ticks down to the 60 minutes allocated for this meeting?

If not, then why do you keep looking for them there?

The best ideas come out of the corner of our eye, the edge of our consciousness, in a flash. They are the result of misdirection and random collisions, not a grinding corporate onslaught. And yet we waste billions of dollars in time looking for them where they’re not.

A practical tip: buy a big box of real wooden blocks. Write a key factor/asset/strategy on each block in big letters. Play with the blocks. Build concrete things out of non-concrete concepts. Uninvite the devil’s advocate, since the devil doesn’t need one, he’s doing fine…”

When we want to engage our people into a creative “out of the box thinking” exercise, it is important that we start by helping them “unlearn” and be aware of the hidden or implicit assumptions which drive and sometimes limit their thinking.

Back from Singapore, in transit in Doha, a bit “time zone challenged”, on my way to Paris, Clermont and Rome. At least I’ll stay on the same continent this time. Have a great week all.


[1] Canadian educator, philosopher and media specialist, known to have coined first the term “Global Village”


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2 Responses to ““Man is limited not so much by his tools but by his vision””

  1. Be open, be happy and have free time to re-load energy….that’s the miracle!


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