June 8, 2013 |  by

In his book Simplicity, Edward de Bono wrote: “If you do not use concepts, then you are working with detail.” What does that mean?

Concepts are the big ideas. Details are the execution. Both are important.

Take a city, San Francisco (above). You’re walking through the streets, visiting shops, eating at restaurants. You’re at the level of detail. You’re seeing the trees in the woods, but not the forest. To get the big picture, you have to elevate. A great way to do this? Visit the highest points in or surrounding a city—and look down. Now you’re at the level of concept. You can see all the neighborhoods at once, the geography, the highway systems. You’re seeing the whole forest.

This brings a new level of insight. You see how the system or organization works—its interconnections and functions—in a way that’s just impossible from the level of detail, the city streets (where most of us place our attention).

The map above (click for interactive) shows the highest points in the Bay Area, the golden gate towers and a 20 miles radius from the city center. From those peaks (I did this), you access an understanding of the Bay Area social ecosystem hard to find anywhere else.

Elevation is a universal principle. Whether you’re gaining insight on a city or a company.

There’s a reason CEOs pick the top floor and not the bottom To get the big ideas, you’ve got to elevate. Big ideas aren’t on the workroom floor.


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