Strain Your Brain by Asking What If Not

When I was working full time on marketing, it was sometimes really challenging to find a new angle for a familiar brand, product or service. At times, on the other hand, it was difficult to disregard my own presumptions and find the client’s perspective. As we know, we humans tend to get stuck on our own certain questions, and answers that we give to them.

Once, when I was in the middle of one of these struggles, a colleague of mine linked this Dietmar Dahmen’s TEDx speech to me. Watching it made me exhilarated and I still use it every once in a while. I sometimes forget it completely until I remember it suddenly, after I’ve managed to get stuck in a den with my thoughts again.

Dahmen’s question compass in a nutshell

  • Why analyses the past, sorts out facts and it always starts with the given.
  • Why not opens up more possibilities and it’s a creative question.
  • What if looks into the future and offers several different options.
  • What if not finds the deepest essence of everything.

What if not is rarely used, because as a question it is semi insane. It works like this: what if this thing I’m familiar with would NOT be that which I think it to be right now. What if this weren’t a website, what would it be then? Would it be a book? Would it be a game? Would it be J.A.R.V.I.S.?

From the point of view of marketing it is obvious what’s the benefit in finding the deepest essence of things. As mentioned in the video, a human being buys a way of life and the Harley Davidson comes for free. We buy an easier way of working and get the computer into the bargain.

At the same time, with the question what if not, you get to rummage in the deepest essence of program development projects. This is a way to find the secret desires of the customers, new justifications for the made choices, and the possible other paths leading to the same (or better) solution.

So what if not?

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