The last step in olive harvest process is making sure you get every single olive off the trees. If you don’t, the ubiquitous olive fruit fly will deposit larvae in all the remaining fruit, ensuring a new generation of destructive pests for the following season.

Even when I think I’ve picked every last olive off a tree, a final pass will always reveal a few dozen more. The reason is simple. Looking at the tree from different angles, from near and far, will inevitably reveal fruit that was there all along, oftentimes right in front of my face. It never fails.

Business is the same way. So is life.

Considering tough problems from different perspectives will often reveal new ideas and innovative strategies. It also helps to eliminate or try different assumptions, no matter how obvious they seem. You’d be surprised how much common wisdom turns out to be false under certain conditions.

Mindfulness meditation – sitting quietly, focusing on your breathing and simply letting your mind do its thing without judging whatever comes up – is another way to do it. So is strenuous exercise or other so-called mindless tasks – actually a misnomer.

Analysis by an independent and therefore objective third party or two can also help you see things that were always there, just hidden from your own myopic vision.

I have yet to meet a successful executive or business leader who doesn’t have one or two methods for avoiding his own shortsightedness.

However you do it, learn to look at things from different viewpoints, challenge assumptions and question common beliefs – especially your own. That alone will help you solve sticky problems and make smart decisions. Not to mention finding those elusive olives.

Image credit Sathish J via Flickr

  • SamHanson


    Thank you, Steve. Just what I needed for this week, which has been particularly obnoxious!

    • Steve Tobak

      Already? It’s only Monday.

      • SamHanson

        We work on Sunday here in Israel. Fun times! :p

  • LeviMeow

    Thank you!

  • Anurodh Sharma

    Steve, look at the decision making process or problem solving from all possible angles, to come to final conclusion, may seem the right advice but practically, it may not be possible…. possible time constraints or whatever.. I can only add to what you have said so well, normally we look at he issue from our point of view….. try looking at it from others perspective. Normally from the centre if we go round the circumfrence, we know of 360 degrees