I was sitting at a small cafe table recently in Huntington Beach, CA talking with my brother about life and work. He works for Apple. Because of my work around collective ingenuity, he mentioned Apple University and some of the training he’s received there. One of the concepts he mentioned hearing at an Apple University class was “thinking around the corners.”
Thinking around the corners happens when we anticipate what may be around a corner before we arrive. I’ll name it strategic anticipation. So let’s try it out.
Think of a situation you’re facing in your personal or professional life. Let’s apply thinking around the corner to it.
Here are three questions you can ask that will help you consider what might be around a corner.
What is likely around the next corner of this situation?
This question helps you reflect on probable situations. Consider Pete, a five year veteran on his sales team. Occasionally Pete gets flustered, even angry, when his sales drop. But, like clock work he returns the next day with an apology and re-doubled efforts. So…if Pete gets angry tomorrow, it would be perfectly acceptable to think he will behave as he always has. Thinking around the corner is sometimes simply anticipating how you will respond to probable outcomes.
Consider Susie, a long time, loyal and sometimes difficult customer. She regularly is demanding, but you’ve learned how to navigate and overcome those “Susie moments.” So…if Susie gets mad tomorrow, you will likely pull out one of your standard ways of rectifying the situation. Thinking around the corner in this case could mean having those responses ready when Susie shows up.
Again, sometimes thinking around the corner simply means that you strategically anticipate what is probable, based on past behavior. BUT, of course, as we all know, sometimes what is “probable” is not what actually happens. And that leads to a second question that can help you think around corners.
What is possible?
This question is about considering what could happen. Could Pete–who always apologizes after getting angry—react different this time? Could he over react and take it out on another employee? Could he walk out? Could he tell you that he’s had it? Could he start looking for another job?
Of course Pete could do any number of things. The key with this question is to try to think outside “normal” or standard possibilities. Susie could go ballistic the next time you you apply your tried and true strategies.
The value of this question (what is possible) is that it readies you for what might happen. You don’t even need to try and guess every possible outcome. But by simply taking time to think of a few out-of-the-ordinary outcomes, you are more prepared if something unexpected happens. The value of anticipating unique outcomes is that it heightens your sensitivity to any possibility. And that leads us to the third question.
What will I do If something completely unexpected occurs around the next corner?
Again, the value of this question is that is helps you strategically anticipate what might happen, no matter what does happen. Here’s an important principle: Over-reaction to a situation is often the result of not considering the possibility (the strong possibility) that the situation will go differently than you thought it would.
Having the awareness that things could go differently makes you more ready if and when they do. And it allows you to create anticipatory strategies for your own behavior (if a surprise jumps up at you).
Try out these three questions today and you just might be able to around the corners, or at least be more ready for what is around one.