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Stepping on Each Other's Toes – Some Overlaps could be Priceless

Eitan Reich
April 14, 2021

Have you written a check lately?

It might have been a while since you have given all the new ways to transfer payments these days. If you have, or if you remember the last time you did, then you may have noticed that you wrote the amount on the check twice – once  in digits and another time in words.

Did you ever think why you did that?

Isn't it obvious? You'd say, it is done to avoid mistakes when the bank processes my payment and to double check that I'm indeed paying the right amount.

However, this simple action may well be indicative of a bigger truth, which I'd like to explore here. 

Duplicating a behavior is often seen as wasteful and inefficient.

This comes from the legacy of the scientific management system developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor, which of course is true in the case of manufacturing when two people are doing the same work or when resources are spent on the same task twice, without (at least) doubling its output.

But, can we really say when the duplication or verlap of actions is efficient or not? It is obviously very valuable in the case of that checks to help us avoid paying too much or too little. Can it be beneficial in business as well?

We at Q Behavioral Thinking have developed an approach which creates value out of overlaps.

Human behavior is at the core of the insights we have and allow us to deliver value to our clients. But we do so not from one perspective or discipline, but rather from multiple disciplines and perspectives. Some may call this an interdisciplinary approach.

In each team that we create to approah and solve a client's challenge, we bring together at least 2-3 different perspectives. We do that on purpose, so there is never just one approach to solve any challenge. We ask questions not only to our clients but also to each other because we seek to understand each other's point of view and the concepts we apply.

This may often feel like stepping on each other's toes, and could feel uneasy and even a bit painful at times. But, in reality, we consciously embrace this approach because it helps us duplicate and create overlaps in ways that bring value to business challenges. In a sense, our approach is akin to that of the duplication when writing a check. 

For example, when we performed research on the future trends and behaviors of the workers within the metalworking industry for one of our clients, we duplicated the thinking about the workers' personas and needs. This enabled us to understand four very different types of metal workers’ personas, each with different needs, that the industry must pay attention to. Using An overlapping approach helped us to think of these personas not just from the well-known design-thinking point of view or an academic psychological perspective, but also to see them from multiple non-linear perspectives, which our clients benefited from knowing. 

As my colleague Roy added (when he gently stepped on my toes while writing this piece) from a Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT) approach, this notion is called "Multiplication." Multiplication is taking a component of a product or a system and making an additional copy, not for efficiency purposes, but to create a new form to see how it can freshly guide our thinking. 

We could look at a multi-disciplinary process as one of making a complex tapestry or a beautiful quilt, patching together different types of methods and disciplines. But even when this is the metaphor, the individual patches are put on each other in an overlapping fashion, where the stitches create a whole which is bigger than the sum of its parts. Therefore, we call this process "stepping on each other's toes'' – gently, intelligently and respectfully. (It’s more like a frog jumping from one lilly pad to the next than a human stepping on legos). 

To sum up, we'd encourage you to think of ways to use more than one approach when facing challenges so that you can call your attention to actions, or blind spots, that would not otherwise appear, very much like when you write that check. 

As we have experienced with our work, duplication and overlapping can expose blind spots or mistakes in the framing of the challenges, and it very much enriches our team and our clients in both the processes and resolutions.

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