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But You Don’t Understand

December 18, 2017

Roy H Williams offers up a great math/brain twister in his book “Wizard of Ads.” Let’s take a look at the math equation:




Williams states that with the addition of a single straight line this equation will be correct. Also, the answer doesn’t involve changing the equals sign. Can you solve it?


The answer is at the end of this post, but when you see it…it’s going to be painfully obvious. This kind of ‘realization’ is no different than many other challenges we face in each day. It’s all about perspective. A different perspective, that is.


Having A Beer


Williams talks about a scene where two friends meet up for a beer and one starts talking about a problem they are having. As the friend talks about his problem, the solution seems painfully obvious to another listener. The listener begins to share their thoughts with friend having the problem who blurts out “but you don’t understand!”


Williams states that the friend is really saying “yeah, but you’re not seeing it from my point of view!” But, isn’t that the point? To look at the problem from a different point of view? From the other person’s perspective, there isn’t a solution. There’s no way out.


Answers Come Easier


Answers come easier when we choose to embrace a new perspective. When we are mired in the same tasks each day, running up against the same problems…no solutions are hard to come by. By changing our perspectives (or getting outside thoughts), solutions begin presenting themselves.


In our example above, one friend isn’t smarter than the other. They just have the benefit of not being buried in the details. They haven’t allowed emotions and frustrations to slow those creative juices.


Problem Definition


There’s a great quote by G.K Chesterton that Williams references in his book. It says, “it isn’t that they can’t see the solution, it’s that they can’t see the problem.” Often it’s not that we can’t come up with the solution it’s that we can’t correctly define the problem. Or worse, we’ve defined the problem but it’s the wrong problem!


We see this in our own IT practice every day. Customers tell us they need “more capacity” and when we check their QoS, they have room to spare. Their QoS is just setup wrong. We often save customers hundreds of thousands of dollars in costly spare capacity that they won’t even need for months.


So, going back to the math equation above, give up yet? Here’s the solution:





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