More Than Two Options

Innovation – the catch-cry of our current times. To create new things, we obviously need to have ideas and the more ideas we have, the more likely we will find great ones.

One of the things stopping us from having more ideas could be the morphology of our human bodies.

If we look at how our bodies are set out, we have two sides, two hands, eyes etc. – perhaps this is constraining us and making it more difficult to imagine many more ideas.

As a thought experiment – what if our bodies were shaped like an octopus – with eight tentacles instead of two hands? I wonder if our natural constraint would then become eight. We could call this way of thinking ‘octopus mode’ so that we are making a deliberate effort to generate many ideas.

Octopus and humanImagine the way our conversations might change

From….. ‘I think we should do X, but on the other hand, we could do Y’

To….. ‘We could do A, or on tentacle 2 we could try B, or on tentacle 3 we could explore C, and then on tentacle 4 we should really do D’……and so on

Taking the thought experiment a bit further, in octopus mode, I might be writing this post and wondering about our constraint of eight, imagining what it would be like to be a centipede.

OK – it’s getting a bit silly now. The main point of this post was to highlight awareness of a physical constraint that we deal with every day and might be influencing our ability to think of many more ideas.

In summary

  1. Next time you are thinking about options or generating ideas, try octopus mode and come up with at least eight
  2. It does not matter if some of the ideas are a bit odd, these ones could lead to the innovation we want to find
  3. Now that I’ve done two points, of course I am going to write eight, just to see what happens
  4. One way might be to draw up eight boxes on a sheet of paper and keep generating ideas until all the boxes are completed
  5. It could be considered a waste of time if the ideas or options that we are looking at are obvious and limited by other constraints (for example, choosing a product to buy when there are only three types available), so suggest not using octopus mode for these ones
  6. Problem-solving is a great place to use this mode – we often want to jump straight to solution. Looking at the problem in eight different ways will open up new options
  7. It’s really very difficult to think of eight things – but at least this point creates number seven in the list and I only need one more
  8. Once eight gets easy, perhaps try for centipede mode – one hundred ideas or ways of looking at a situation/problem

Thanks again to Tobbe Gyllebring and Steve for the conversations that have inspired this post – of course, any inaccuracies are all mine.