Dear {subscriber_first_name}

I’d like to start by wishing you a very successful and rewarding 2012, a year when I hope you fully achieve all your goals, however, perhaps given the dire predictions in the press for this year; I thought it might also help if I discuss the concept of impossibility a little:

“So, let’s see if I’ve understood you correctly, in order to provide the useful effect you’re looking for, your product needs to have one property but to avoid causing any harm, your product also needs to have the opposite property”

“Yes, that’s right…er, but that’s impossible”

In this somewhat sanitised example of a conversation I recently had, my client used the word “impossible” to describe a situation where the formulation I proposed for the problem could not be answered in reality. We went on to discuss what it was about my statement which was most impossible, we mapped a number of alternative problem formulations and subsequently identified solutions which completely by-passed this “impossible” situation.

What does this example tell us about the concept of impossibility? Well, when we use the word “impossible” we are actually describing two things:

1. The way we see the problem situation, this is also known as psychological inertia, and we all have it to some extent. To start to move past “impossible” we need first to break out of our initial view of the problem. When we are working on client problems at CoCatalyst, we use specific methods and tools designed to unlock psychological inertia and get to the root of the problem.

2. Our limited knowledge about possible options to solve the problem. To increase our scope to solve the problem we need to describe the core conflicts causing the problem and find solutions which other people have already used to solve these issues. In our consultancy projects, we identify the generic functionality needed to solve the problem and, through our network, connect to the leading areas where a parallel problem has already been solved.

So if you’re looking at 2012 and are tempted to use the word “impossible”, why not use this slightly longer sentence instead – “given my current view of the situation and my current knowledge of possible solutions this challenge seems impossible”. I would then suggest you get to the core of your challenge by asking what makes it appear to be so impossible and perhaps bring in some colleagues who have faced similar challenges to help you work through your problem and share their solutions.

Click here if you would like to know more about our approach to “impossible” problems.