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Monday July 10, 2006

How to make the impossible possible

A BOOK that can be applied to both your business and personal life is rare. The Power Of Impossible Thinking is such a rarity.  

The authors, Jerry Wind (a Wharton marketing professor) and Colin Crook (Citibank’s former chief technology officer), have explored the applications powerfully well. 

In a nutshell, this 270-page book is about mental models. It is an original take on the subject and exploration of how they apply to personal life and business. 

The book deals with the subject of neuroscience and its practical uses. In case you fear that the book contains “rocket science” and hence is difficult to understand, here’s the good news: The authors have written eloquently in an easy-to-understand style, minus the subject’s technical jargons commonly found in academic books. 

Your mental models define who you are and what you do. Wind and Crook explain how your mental models stand between you and reality, affecting all your perceptions and how they blind or constrain you, or create opportunities for you. 

If you can change “impossible thoughts”, you can do impossible things. Change in mental models allowed Roger Banister to run a mile in below four minutes in May 1954, shattering the long-held “it is not possible” belief. Or made it possible for AirAsia to give away free seats or price its seats so low that “Now everyone can fly.” 

The book helps you to learn how to develop new ways of seeing, how to keep your mental models fresh and relevant, when to change to a new model, how to build a portfolio of models and how to improve your models. This way, you get better at making sense of the world to make decisions that respond to reality, not some obsolete model of reality. 

However, it’s comforting to know the authors do not advocate outright disposal of old mental models (which may still be relevant and useful) just because new models are developed. 

The book has four parts. Part I explains the importance of mental models and the way they create limits and opportunities. Part II considers ways to keep your mental models relevant. Part III deals with obstacles to change and strategies for addressing them. Part IV explores ways to access mental models quickly through intuition to transform your world.  

The Power of Impossible Thinking comes with an audio CD to give you a richer experience.  

I like the book. It’s thought provoking. But I have one grouse: The absence of a systematic method or model for executing the suggested concepts or strategies compromise their practicality.  

With all the “you should do this or that” to achieve the power of impossible thinking, you may actually end up with thinking it’s impossible.  

  • Dr Goh welcomes feedback at sgth@streamyx.com 

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