Slicing through the Thinking

Onions are a versatile and rather essential ingredient in my culinary world. They seem to be a base to many of the dishes I enjoy cooking: pissaladière, stir-fry, pastilla, parmigiana with a rich tomato and onion sauce, risotto…

The funny thing is that as I’ve sliced a lot of onions in my time and I thought I knew how to slice them…

A few years back I befriended a delightful Colombian, Ana-Maria, who is a very accomplished Cordon Bleu-trained chef. Ana-Maria had nothing to learn from me in the culinary arts but she was generous enough to agree to a few cooking sessions where the two of us would share favourite recipes and cook them together. On the first session, Ana-Maria watched with bemusement as I cut up the onions and then gently said:”Would you like me how to show you a better way?”

She then peeled an onion, removed the nose at one end carefully kept the roots at the other. She then cut it in half and artfully sliced along each line in the onion in an arc. She then clenched it hard with the tips of her fingers and cut a horizontal line across and then started another slicing at right angles to the previous, this time producing the cutest and most homogeneous little squares of onion I had ever seen in my kitchen! It was the secret to diced onion or brunoise.”

I was in the kitchen last week dicing onions in the way she taught me and producing my perfect little cubes and realised that I no longer knew a different way to cut onions. And it got me thinking about thinking…

You see, I think that the process of learning to think differently is a bit like re-learning to cut onions.

[Enter Shrek and Donkey and a spot of poetic licence on my part:

Donkey: It stinks?

Shrek: Yes… No!

Donkey: Oh, It makes you cry?

Shrek: No!

Donkey: Oh, you do it out in the sun, you get all brown, ‘start sproutin’ little white hairs…]

No!… What I mean is that we all know how to think (some of us better than others!) but when it comes to the need to think differently; to innovate efficiently, there may be alternative ways that may be more effective. There may be a “better way”.

In the work I do in corporates helping them bust their cognitive bias to enable them to access inventive ideas using the resources right in front of them, the value I bring is to give them a different search engine through their expert minds; I use an Israeli method that hits the thinking, Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT). The result is a more radical and effective way to access results. We see it work in every field and in areas ranging from productivity through to marketing messaging.

It would be offensive to tell anyone that you are going to teach them to think. We have been doing it for years. But cognitive bias — or ‘blueprint thinking’ — — is so pervasive and such an obstacle to thinking inventively using what we have that it is powerful to unlearn a certain way of thinking to enable you to learn another.

The funny thing is that — like my onion slicing — once you have discovered a new way to do it that gets such great results, it’s very hard to unlearn it.

Does that mean one replaces the other — not necessarily. There may be a time for both — just as different methods for innovation have different sweet spots.

Get in touch if you’d like to cut through some of the layers of the SIT Onion…

The SIT Onion

Bias and blindspot buster.

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