What if “What ifs” became your future reality?


What if…?

This is a very simple exercise which can open up discussion for more strategic possibilities such as implementing change in a company or writing new content for on-line communications etc. Any number of people can take part, but it’s better with smaller groups from a variety of departments or disciplines. It’s also very simple, but the important part is analysing the answers and taking them forward.

The idea behind exploring “what ifs” is to get us to look at our environment and imagine the consequences of “change”. 

The first thing to do, is for the facilitator to write-up some prompts on the whiteboard. These may relate to your core business, but also to more general issues, such as communication, working environment etc.

  • …if there were no floors in this building?
  • …light had a scent?
  • …the telephone had never been invented?
  • …if everyone was blind?
When you have written some up, see if anyone else has thought of any interesting prompts to add to the list.

Then everyone has to choose a prompt, and the group then has five minutes of freewriting in response.

There are cognitive benefits of doing an exercise like this one:

When you start imagining simple scenarios and actually seeing them in your mind’s eye and then visualise all the consequences that might occur, this is not a trivial or a silly exercise. When you do it you’re actually forging pathways in the brain that will allow you to activate this envision brainset more easily in the future…

As we mature, our prefrontal cortex matures. And this is the part of the brain that’s discerning. It helps us to plan for the future, but it does that by judging the information that’s being given to it from the rest of the brain.

So, how does this help us in terms of strategic content?

Well, because writing things down is difficult, not to mention writing well (which requires different kinds of thinking and different approaches. This is the challenge that anyone responsible for strategy, leadership, content management or creation faces all the time. It is especially a challenge for those who have been responsible for these issues for a while and feel like they’re running out of ideas.

Many successful content strategies, will depend heavily upon an internal culture that invests time and resources in enrichment and educational experiences, just like this exercise could be. One result of making these kinds of experiences common should be in maintaining the flow and quality of content, but another will be the growth of the people creating that content. They’ll be smarter, more perceptive, and better at communicating the ideas that are central to what you do.

Let’s have a look at some possible responses to “What if light had a scent?”

  • there wouldn’t be a need for air fresheners in homes
  • houses would be personally scented to depict the owners’ personality.
  • The postmen could be blind, delivering by smell alone.
  • electricity costs would go up because people would enjoy smelling the light
  • there’d be a market for bad-smelling lights that introverts could buy to discourage visitors
  • districts or neighbourhoods would have their own scented geographic boundaries.
  • Lights would have colours to match the aromas.
So, if you were working for a lighting company, which ideas would you take forward? Which ideas could bring real change and difference to your offer? Which ideas would really interest not just your consumers, but your stakeholders? Which ideas could you talk about at length in your on-line and off-line communications?
This is where the analysis becomes important.
So, what if, you just try this exercise? Who knows where it might lead you and your business…
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