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Unthinkable thinking

May 20, 2020

The world has changed and so have our lives. We may have even adopted a new outlook, refocused on what really matters –health over wealth, friends over followers. We could be forgiven for feeling that we’ve done enough, we’ve adapted and changed to cope with our new reality.

Have we done enough? In the months and years to come, it won’t be sufficient to simply cope. We must be prepared to reinvent our products, our work and ourselves to thrive in a future which is hard to imagine. Many others have written on the societal and economic changes we are likely to encounter, so I won’t elongate this piece by repeating their words. My concern today is with our thinking. How has this changed and does it need to?


Prior to the pandemic life had become so full that time to sit and think had been pushed out of our schedules, the pressure was on to react and meet the next deadline, to keep up and not get left behind. For many, the pressure is back on to devise new regimes and to adapt existing processes, be warned this may be a fool’s errand.

I’d counsel that we should take care not to get sucked into another whirlpool of busyness but instead paddle to calmer water and take time to think. And to think radical thoughts, allow our minds to journey along unthinkable paths toward a world where international travel is memory, luxury goods are obsolete and health is the new wealth. Or better still, some other line on enquiry that I can’t envisage but you can.

If we fail to engage in this unthinkable thinking we will inevitably become part of the herd, like sheep being corralled for slaughter. Whilst the abattoir will not be our destiny we may lose our freedom to create, to make a difference, to define and work towards our purpose. So, here are two questions to get started:

· What is certain?
· What is fragile?

Once we know this we can begin to make the choices for ourselves and decisions for our businesses required to thrive in the future. As we do this check our ideas against our values by asking:

· What do we believe?
· What is our purpose?

And if all this sounds a bit like navel-gazing, consider how long term unthinkable thinking is working for others. Elon Musk began thinking about a radical new approach to transport when he invested in Tesla in 2004, it seems to be paying off and he’s well on the way to dominating global communication with Starlink. Conversely, Sir James Dyson joined the future transport journey over 10 years later only to drop out in October 2019 having been unable to create a commercially viable product.

Never before has it been so important to take time out to reflect, I’d go so far as to say that at this moment if we fail to think the unthinkable we will fail.

As ever, if you or your team would appreciate an impartial facilitator or coach to support you through the process, we’d love to hear from you.

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