You may remember a previous article ‘The Creative Management Challenge’ which posed some simple questions such as ‘How do you get a giraffe into a refrigerator?’ There were some novel answers to that particular question, note that there is no correct answer for two reasons. First of all the problem situation was not fully specified, leaving many questions un answered. What size is the refrigerator, where is it, does it have to get in unaided or can force be used? Secondly there was a deliberate intention to introduce ambiguity. There was no mention of the size of the giraffe, whether it was real/stuffed/inflatable or could it be folded/squashed in any way.

In our businesses we tend to have many giraffes, situations that we have not properly understood with solutions that do not take into account all of the relevant factors or which have been constructed as a result of poor decision making. Curiously, unlike the tall animals, these giraffes seem to exist unnoticed. Why is this, how can all of these poor decisions be swept under the carpet. The answer is of course ego. We do not like to admit that we do not have all of the answers, that we are not in control of our business. The irony is that by ignoring or hiding these ‘giraffes’ we are actually admitting that we are not in control.

So how can we help ourselves?

  • Examine all of the boundaries to any problem, test them and do not introduce any that do not have to be there.
  • Ask questions, why do things have to be the way they are?
  • Look at things in as many different ways as possible, inside out, upside down or from a customer or competitor viewpoint.

And finally, just to stop you wasting time chasing your tail, ask yourself the question, ‘What would happen if I ignored this situation altogether?’ If the answer is nothing then you have one less thing to worry about and a greater feeling of being in control. You are beginning to understand your giraffe!

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