Seeing What’s Not There: Unexpected Ideas

When we’re walking through the park my nearly three year old has no trouble spotting gnomes, leprechauns or even wolves amongst the trees. He even points them out for me: “There!”

According to his vivid descriptions gnomes invariably have red pointy hats and wolves are always out to do mischief. As hard as I try, I always fail to see them. My thirty something year old eyes register only bushes, trees and the occasional piece of trash littered on a carpet of twigs and leaves.

What’s the difference between him and me?

He knows there are gnomes and other magical beings in the woods.

I however know there are no gnomes (and I also know that a park is not really the woods.)

That’s it. Simply knowing something tends to colour our perception of the world. It’s how we are conditioned by our experience of life. It’s how our society is wired. It’s sadly also how we raise our kids. We teach them to sing in tune, to colour within the lines.

Take something as simple and familiar as this logo. What do you see?

Most people will see the words Fed(eral) and Ex(press) written in solid purple and orange. It’s a good logo if you ask me. The name FedEx also has a nice ring to it.

But did you spot the hidden gnome? There’s one stuck right between the E and the x. It’s the place your not supposed to look because it’s outside the boundaries of the actual drawing. Yet, it is right there, under your nose. Artists call this territory ‘negative space’. I call it our ‘creative blind-spot’. It is a good place to hide gnomes. It is also were a lot of unexpected ideas are hidden.

When looking for creative solutions for impossible to solve problems this is usually the case. We simply know too much. Even if we don’t know how to solve a problem for sure, we usually know all things that aren’t going to work. Because they are too expensive, technically impossible or failed miserably before.

Hence we are unable to see things that are not supposed to be there. Unexpected ideas, waiting to be stumbled upon. But maybe, they might just be there. Waiting to be discovered.

Like a great new marketing concept or the cure for cancer. Or perhaps even actual  gnomes.

5 Replies to “Seeing What’s Not There: Unexpected Ideas”

  1. “My thirty something year old eyes” 😉

    You mean E and x 😉

  2. Oops. You’re not supposed to look between the d and the E. It’s the E and the x indeed.

    I corrected my mistake. Thanks for letting me know.

  3. nice, hadn’t noticed the -> before.

  4. Leave it to kids to teach us the better way of looking at life, and you are set. Indeed, good perspective, and “we know too much” – you are right. It sometimes just blinds us. Things are right in front of us but we are so used to seeing them, we do not “see” them anymore….thanks Bastiaan….great food for thought!

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