Mindworks’ Weblog

Thinking Matters

Stretching the envelope

Posted by Andrew Cooper on July 27, 2008

Stretching the envelope is a term that test pilots use when they fly an aircraft beyond the limits of its performance envelope – which specifies the maximum speed at which it’s designed to fly, how hard you can wrench it around corners and so on – to see if any bits fall off.

It’s also the name I give to one of the idea generation techniques I introduce on a technique card in my Mindworks Approach (now available entirely online, incidentally: click the Products and Services tab).

The way it works is simply to take an idea and to attempt to push it to its limits to see what happens.  An example of this is something that occurred to me in connection with Explore China (use the search box to find references below).  I’m not going to say what the idea was, because I’d like to research it first, but it would involve some rather impressive technology.

However, a point that’s worth noting is that some new ideas need to be introduced gently.  I mentioned the thought that had occurred to me to someone who may well be reading this, and he looked at me with a nervous smail.  ‘Andrew’ he may or may not have been thinking ‘has finally lost it’.

But the idea is technically perfectly feasible, if a bit audacious and is would certainly need lots of cooperation from various organisations.  It grabbed my imagination, though: I could picture it happening, exactly how it would look and sound and how I would feel if it was happenning.  If we could do it, it would be quite something.

However, in mentioning the idea I’d indulged in something that’s sometimes called called ‘premature revelation’.  It’s not entirely unrelated to ‘premature evaluation’ (the term I coined for evaluating ideas too soon which is on one of my Meeting Cards).  It would have been much better to find out whether it’s at all possible to set it all up first and only then drop it casually into the conversation.

The chances are approximately 98.5% against it being possible, but at least I now have both a ‘vision’ and a target (0% against) More on that story, one way or the other, later.

In the meantime,  In about three hours from now, I’m going to jump on a train with our son, Sam, and our bikes and head for the glorious city of Bath.  We’ll then cycle back to Newbury along the Kennet and Avon canal which I videoed for this post.

Thanks to Google Maps, you can see the start of our cycle ride here – the point at which the man-made Kennet and Avon meets the River Avon is in the lower right, on the opposite bank to the railway station at which we’ll arrive – assuming the railway system is working – at 10.30.  If you feel so inclined, you can drag the map in ‘satellite’ view (they use aerial photos, not satellite images) all the way along the canal to the point at which I made the earlier video which is here.

I’m planning to video some of the hightlights of our trip and will post a short You Tube of some of the innovations we encounter on our way after we get back.  It will be 28C out there for much of the trip, but the route – apart from one rather astonishing hill which I’ll video – is, of course, pretty much flat.  It’s tough work, this management consultancy, but someone has to do it.


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