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What is Half of Eight?

Seems like the answer is an obvious one and you would not be wrong if you thought in your head – four is half of eight. What if I told you that E or 3 or 0 could also be the right answers to “what is half of eight?”. Read on…

I was part of workshop not long ago and one of the exercises to help start the day was designed to challenge our perspectives and foster an environment of brain storming. The facilitator drew a large number 8 on a piece of flip chart paper at the front of the room and asked the group the question – “what is half of eight?”. It was first thing in the morning and I was suffering from not having enough caffeine on board, so I appreciated when a few others spoke up and said “ah, 4?”. I thought to myself, I was glad it was not just me who thought it was an obvious answer.

After a few moments of silence, a voice from the back of the room someone said – “half of eight could also be E” “… Now I was intrigued!? “E”, how could “E” be considered half of eight? Of course the letter “E” is in the word eight, but it does not represent half the letters in the word so what does this guy mean exactly, clearly I am missing something.

In this instance, the back row voice had seen this exercise before and so had the inside track. Now the rest of the room was interested. The facilitator smiled and then drew a line dissecting the number eight in half vertically from the top of the eight to the bottom and then ahhhhh, it came through clear. Well, look at that (I really did say it to myself in the moment), on one side of that line an “E” is formed (if you look correctly) and then once your brain starts to recondition itself to thinking differently about the question, you notice something else. On the other side of that line is a “3″.

One of my table mates then pipes in and says “half of eight could also be zero – 0″… The facilitator then drew a horizontal line dissecting the middle of the 8 to show a 0 on the top and bottom of the line. (Since you have read this far by now you may have also realized the picture for the blog post is the same figure described to emphasize the point.)

Once the facilitator drew the 8 with the dissecting lines as a visual catalyst to re-frame the question, it demonstrated to me how quickly I assume my perspective on a question or a problem may not be clear. It is amazing to think of how our brains are wired to be conditioned around a set way of thinking. I do not mean to make a simple question posed to be more than it really is, but at times I wonder whether autopilot is turned on in our minds related to questions or problems we encounter, especially when we think of them as simple. How do assumptions affect our perspective when we do not challenge them, especially in relation to problems or questions? In this instance, to assume the obvious answer is correct or more importantly that we do not need to test the question, is likely our approach. Its a basic math question really, or so it appears.

Obviously context is important when considering any question posed to us, but I would suggest that the main point of this post is to encourage us to pause in our day to day to think about our perspective in the moment and how we can re-frame our thinking to consider there is always another way to look at things. How many times have we looked at situation or problem we are facing through the same lens or only considering the obvious? Asking the same question hoping for a different answer?

A friend of mine told me once ” you find value in what you chose to find value in every situation” and one simple exercise at a workshop left me with one nugget to always apply. Always do my best to understand the context of the question to reflect the perspective in my answer.

As a wrap up, I have included a few notes about perspective – take em or leave em!

Some thoughts about perspective:

  • Sometimes it takes someone or something to challenge our assumptions or our conditional thinking to see things differently. When it happens, it often does in an instant so be present in the moment and capture your take away’s!;
  • Being intentional about seeing things differently takes work so ask others to help you challenge your current way of thinking and build a circle of supporters that challenge you to always try to see things from different angles;
  • Visualizing is so important when re-framing a problem or looking for a new perspective. Get used to drawing out your problem or question to look at it from different angles. When all else fails, even change your physical location and get a different outlook on your surroundings and ultimately your question or problem;
  • Enlightenment from a change in perspective can be contagious, so when it happens around you jump on board. Seek to understand how those around you are seeing things differently – what are they seeing that you do not? What should you ask yourself in the moment to challenge your perspective.

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