Thinking: What do Birds Have To With Ideas?

Looking up last week, above the streets, people and traffic, I saw something I’ve never seen before – and twice in 1 day: large groups of birds perched on telephone and hydro wires taking in the world below. Could it be they were exchanging ideas?

<img src="birds.jpg" alt="Ideas and Birds" />

This ‘beak meeting’ was of pigeons, which I’ve never seen in groups of more than 20 or 30; even then, they’ve always been in dining mode. That day saw roughly 200 of them out of my hearing range, but likely chatting among themselves.

Had I not looked up, I wouldn’t have seen them. Later, that reminded me of how limited perspectives can impede problem solving.

Most of us stare straight ahead (or down at our phones) and apply the same approach to problem solving or working out equations.

We get used to figurin’ the way we always have, even if the solutions arrived at weren’t particularly effective: habitual thinking and humdrum ideas are both the process and the result.

Alphabet Block Method
<img src="cube.jpg" alt="Alphabet block thinking method" />When I discuss problem solving techniques, I inevitably refer to the cube theorem; a children’s alphabet block provides a good visual. Its 6 sides are distinct yet some appear to be identical. But they’re not. The ‘M’ on an adjacent side is a different colour, for example, which parallels how similar conditions or lines of reasoning can be mistaken for their similarity. That leads to skewed and-or inaccurate conclusions.

Figuratively speaking, hold up the cube (or problem) in front of you (or write it down) and rotate it.

Consider its different sides, perspectives or aspects. How similar or different are they from your accepted rationale? Maybe they suggest that other factors or thought streams, not yet considered with any depth, may deserve more consideration. Asking different questions about ‘a’ topic yields different answers and often, breathtaking insights.

This is often followed by:

  • The birth of new ideas
  • Tweaks to existing philosophies or concepts
  • A re-think of content and marketing strategies, and
  • Adjustments to products and services


Later down by the lakefront, I heard the cackle of birds and gazed upwards. There, on a construction crane’s cable and trestles were perched hundreds, if not thousands, of them.

My photo doesn’t capture the amount of activity flying about. Beyond the stationary ones, several birds hovered about, jockeying for position or hop scotching to different spots. Kind of … like a debate was being held or perhaps a negotiation of some sort.

Seeking Feedback Equates to Seeking Clarity
That got me thinking about the value of seeking feedback on one’s idea, concept or hypothesis (a proposition assumed as a premise in an argument or line of reasoning).

It’s very easy to ‘fall in love’ with one’s idea and for others to do likewise, especially in groups or companies where it may be politically advantageous to do so.

<img src="salmon.jpg" alt="farmed salmon effect" />When this occurs, the Farmed Salmon Effect (my term) takes hold and does so to the detriment of both the idea’s soundness and those involved. Figuratively speaking, all those fish swimming in an enclosed tank with:

    • Inadequate water circulation
    • No predators to escape, or
    • Challenging water currents

leads to an under-examined idea, concept or product-service.

Whereas, inviting others’ critical-constructive feedback reveals oversights, updates thinking and polishes already stellar ideas; it also prevents well-meaning, experiential conclusions from previous-current applications unduly influencing one’s thinking.

<img src="wreckingball.jpg" alt="Take a wrecking ball to ideas" />Routinely asking unasked, “hard” questions reveals logistical gaps, disconnects and/or contradictions. Prospective customers tend to ask questions from these same perspectives.

Having ‘an’ answer, preferably a researched, analyzed and “proofed” one, promotes trust. The objective is cohesive content, a sound sales proposition or other argument, whether vocal in nature or in written form. Being proactive improves quality.

Is this theme a future post or merely just another side of the alphabet block?

It is both.

On the subject of inquiry, the great thinker Edward de Bono said:

“Everyone has the right to doubt everything as often as he pleases and the duty to do it at least once. No one way of looking at things is too sacred to be reconsidered. No one way of doing things is beyond improvement.”

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