Sunday Snippet: Kenichi Ohmae

“It is hard to let old beliefs go. They are familiar. We are comfortable with them and have spent years building systems and developing habits that depend on them. Like a man who has worn eyeglasses so long that he forgets he has them on, we forget that the world looks to us the way it does because we have become used to seeing it that way through a particular set of lenses. Today, however, we need new lenses. And we need to throw the old ones away.”

I’ve written many times before about how our perception colours our reality and, if we have any pre-conceived notions about anything, that’s going to affect how we interpret it. For the longest time, it was “common knowledge” that the Earth was flat. It was just assumed to be true, until Columbus sailed halfway around the globe and realized that the Earth is round. And now, we “know” that the Earth isn’t really a perfect sphere, but more of a squished sphere.

That’s a prime example of collective ignorance. As Kenichi Ohmae describes above, mankind spent “years building systems and developing habits” that depend upon these kinds of beliefs. When we believed that we would always have an abundant supply of oil, we didn’t really worry about fuel efficiency in our vehicles or what we’d do when the world ran out of oil. When the average life expectancy was only in the 30s, people planned their lives around that number. There was no need to plan for retirement, because you wouldn’t live past 35 anyhow.

Yes, our beliefs are familiar and they are comfortable, but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily correct. The only way we can move forward is to challenge the status quo and to question our beliefs. That’s why science is so important. That’s why philosophy is so important. That’s why the creative arts are so important. We look beyond what we think we believe and seek out what we really want to know. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary. Just because something worked before or made sense before doesn’t mean that it’s useful or accurate today.

Kenichi Ohmae is a well-respected businessman and corporate strategist from Japan. He has authored many books in his lifetime, like The Mind Of The Strategist and The Next Global Stage. It makes sense that he would talk about abandoning old lenses and looking at the world through fresh eyes, as he writes about topics like globalization and how to plan for a competitive advantage. You have to think outside the box and be a little unconventional if you want to one-up your competitors.

The answer could be in front of you the whole time. What were once the throwaway parts of vermin have become French delicacies like caviar and frog legs. All it took was some creative vision, some expert rebranding, and a new way to look at something that was already there.