Pi of Life : Out of that Box

Every once in a while, its fun and constructive to think of something implausible, something unlikely and something so huge it changes everything. And then try and see how you might react to it, and whether your ideas, beliefs, products, startup, way of life will survive it.

Let’s start with a few big ones that already happened.

The Attack on Pearl Harbour

Nobody in the United States  audacious, all out Japanese attack on their coast. It pulled the US into the war and changed the entire course of it. Japan intended this as a preventive strike to prevent the US from interfering, so that didn’t go too well, obviously!

Collapse of the Soviet Union

Of course it changed the Soviet Union. But it also changed Cuba!! – which was propped up as a model communist state by the Soviets and suddenly did not have access to oil. They underwent a severe amount of stress and eventaully have had to reorganize lives, society, everything!


Oh, the Iraqis didn’t have them, and certainly didn’t see the massive search for them, and what followed, coming. They wouldn’t have imagined in their wildest dreams how much and how severely their nation would be changed around agendas they had no clue about.

The 9/11 Attacks

The 9/11 attacks scarred the lives of so many families. Many nations are still involved in the aftermath. And airport security, immigration and visa rules have changed travel forever for millions.

Apple and Android

…. and Push Notifications. Bye Symbian. And Blackberry lost its mojo. Not for any fault of theirs necessarily, but just because the world around them changed.

We could just go on and on. From small crises, hurricanes, policy and governance decisions, a major technology company launching a product or adding a feature that makes yours redundant, a inexplicable hike in the price of a commodity completely destroying the business model you just cracked – life is full of random events that impact you.

When its positive, you don’t mind, and often pat yourself on the back for “spotting an opportunity”.

But when its negative, what do you do? Curse your luck? Lament the fact than the stars don’t align? Give up and do something else?

John Kuruvilla was narrating his Air Deccan journey recently at an event. Given that the entire food-chain didn’t really want Air Deccan to take off, pun intended, they got insane early morning slots to Goa which everyone, including the team, considered inconvenient for travellers. But out of this was born the idea of selling it to passengers the fact that Air Deccan allowed them more time on the beach! They even convinced hotel concierges to allow folks to leave their bags with them so they could head to what they had come to Goa for. And travellers just lapped it up!

The Thinker, sculpture at the Musée Rodin in Paris (Image: Wiki)
The Thinker, sculpture at the Musée Rodin in Paris (Image: Wiki)

Innovation and creativity indeed can get a huge push when your back’s to the wall, when there’s no options left and when you just have to move, to continue.

So here’s a thought : just once in a while, practice maneuvering out of cul-de-sacs which catch you unawares. How? Imagine.

Go ahead and think of the strangest, weirdest thing that can happen. Just a thought experiment, if not more. Imagine that the Android or Apple watch become the primary device individuals use. Imagine every home being involved in producing and managing its own energy. Imagine a breakthrough that raises life expectancy to 125. Imagine fuel at 15x the prices at today’s costs for everything else. Imagine weather being so dynamic and unpredictable that farming the current way becomes impossible. Imagine Noah’s Ark, only with internet connections. Imagine runtime cross language translation when people speak to each other. Imagine currency losing its value in a year – its happened in so many parts of the world already! Imagine a critical resource for something we take for granted running out completely. Imagine dramatic change in governance that makes available and transparent lots more data and services. Imagine rationed connectivity. Imagine a colony on Mars. Imagine travel close to the speed of light. Imagine urban farming and barter making a comeback. Imagine education that happens interspersed with work, fun, play throughout life and never in a classroom. Imagine the crumbling of structured jobs by and large. Imagine multi-currency banking for every individual, including forms of currency that don’t exist today (Imagine trading time – oh wait – that’s already happening!). Imagine self-managed healthcare.

Basically, create scenarios that stress your models, your assumptions, and think out your responses and reactions to the same. What will you lose, what will matter, and how will you then “pivot”, to use a much abused word 🙂

Trust me, reality will be stranger than fiction – even in your lifetime. I don’t know if doing this will help you survive or innovate fast enough when the reality changes, but you’ll probably be less fearful of it happening, and that’s a good place to start. And stretching your imagination beyond any box you normally operate within the confines of is just a lot of fun!

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