Do you have that one friend who always likes to ask these absurd questions such as: “what would you prefer: one arm of three metres or three chickens always following you wherever you go?”
None of this will ever happen, so it seems pointless to spend any time thinking about it. But as silly as they may sound, absurd questions can be useful.
Would you rather be invisible for a day or be able to fly for a day?
Intuitively, one option might appear to you better than the other. Why is that? What does it say about you?
For me, I would definitely prefer to fly, as I value freedom and discovery highly. And the beauty of it is that everyone will come up with a different explanation for their answer.
Absurd questions can be powerful as they force us to think differently and unlock better outcomes.
Think about your goals. Maybe, you want to buy a flat. Or become a company director. Or have your paintings displayed in a famous exhibition in Paris.
And most of us look at how we can achieve these goals. We make plans and think of what would need to be done and overcome. For example, we need to save for a deposit. We need to exceed our annual targets. We need to improve our painting skills.
We know these are the things we must do because we have seen others doing it this way or because we believe it should be done this way. But, with this kind of thinking, we set up constraints. We accept ideas as if there were some unalterable laws that must be followed. We create a box in which our thinking is trapped.
Absurd questions can challenge this.
Think about your goals. But this time, you have a gun pointing at you, and your aggressor yells that unless you achieve your goal in one week, he will shoot you.
What would you do?
If not a death threat, imagine that, in one week, banks stop lending money forever, promotions are frozen for the next 50 years, and your hands are irreversibly broken.
What would you do?
For instance, what would you do if you had to buy a flat in just a week but needed more money for a deposit?
Absurd questions call for absurd answers.
How about robbing a bank (definitely not recommended)?
How about betting at the casino (not recommended either)?
Or asking for donations through a website to collect funds from anyone, anywhere (one can dream, right)?
Suddenly, our ideation process is relieved of our limiting beliefs and established assumptions. We are forced to explore unconventional solutions, and this expands our divergent thinking.
Of course, we will get many more impractical or pointless ideas, but out of these, you might have one that is a complete breakthrough. Or you could work your way from an absurd answer to a novel and useful one.
Let’s take the idea of donations.
Underneath lies the notion that if we cannot get the initial capital on our own, we might ask others to help. Then, going down the rabbit hole, we can think of how to gather our strengths with others. It leads to concepts such as property co-ownership or rent-to-own models, widely supported by fintech startups, which provide innovative answers to our initial dilemma.
In this case, we use a specific type of absurd question, which imposes an impossible time constraint. Shortening deadlines is forcing us to come up with more radical ideas, often associated with higher levels of risk and reward. This is extremely efficient for challenging the status quo in slowed pace environments and achieving better results.
There are other types of absurd questions (which I will talk more about in future newsletters); however, the core concept remains the same.
Absurd questions can allow us to approach problems from a different angle. They help us solve complex issues and get tremendous results. They help us to think remarkably and in today’s world, this is one of the most valuable skills to possess.
If you enjoyed this newsletter’s topic, I’m sure you will like my new keynote, ‘Get A Purple Team’, explaining how cognitive diversity empowers teams to make better decisions and elevates their performance.
To your success,
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