Comments don’t support images - but thought this was very relevant ....


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Jun 10, 2020Liked by John Philpin

John, our synchronicity is alarming, dear friend. My prime copy of Flatland remains in Oakland (CA) storage. And yes, it is the quintessential book for Thinking Differently. A few thoughts from my new home in the other Flatland* (Illinois):

• Upon first reading, many years ago, I was charmed by the intelligence of shapes, and have often considered the role played by the shape of our words in the ultimate success (or not) of our efforts to communicate.

• The most compelling concepts, still applicable, concern the difficulties of explaining anything to those who see their worlds quite differently than we view our world – and I’ve often believed we need bi-directional translators (i.e., United Nations) inside each corporation.

Following up on that idea, quick anecdote: for several semesters, I was adjunct faculty for an international MBA program in San Francisco – 60-70 students from around the world in each cohort. One of my teams was struggling to complete a project because each was from a different country, with different native languages, and four of the five spoke very little English.

They were unhappy about their circumstance, convinced they would fail, until I reassured them that their experience in this project will be invaluable in business, because I’ve worked with executive teams (all male, Caucasian, English speaking) that could not talk to each other.

One other observation re: Flatland – please remind your followers to brace themselves re: Edward Abbott’s very provincial sexism that emerges throughout the otherwise delightful book – I’d recommend, for instance, skipping Chapter 4 (Concerning the Women)...

Your references to Flatland reminded me of another small but powerful book that is very relevant to any discussion of Thinking Differently: "My Stroke of Insight" by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a well-known neuro-scientist and co-founder of the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI). She documents her own (tragic) experience of suffering a massive stroke, and her remarkable journey back. Check out, specifically, her notions of “One Step to the Right” which is a provocative metaphor, and a simple path through an otherwise difficult time.

*PS: I have a friend, here in Illinois, who actually describes himself as a Flatlander, and the comparisons are correct: in fact, there is a contempt here for intellectualism (blamed on the residents of both coasts who, from this vantage, cause most of the problems), as well as a deep suspicion of and resistance to computers. Sure, they love their phones, but office automation? No thanks, we’ll shuffle, copy, misfile, re-write and re-shuffle 18 copies of the same document, thank you very much. I’m possibly the only fellow in my neighborhood who understands the 3rd dimension, most others are perfectly content with 2-dimensionality: if you can’t fix it with a backhoe, it’s probably not that big of a problem.

I’m the fellow (when I’m not sheltering-in-place) who, therefore, is “stepping to the right” constantly, all in the effort to better understand the world seen through their lens.

Looking forward,


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Jun 10, 2020Liked by John Philpin

"And that’s the problem I have been trying to solve on a number of fronts this past few weeks." - good and how are you progressing?

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