She Said It Smelled Red

Growing up, there was a girl that I knew who was so smart, she actually came across as quite strange to other children.  I was always considered very smart and bright, but this girl was weirdly intelligent – I’m talking savant like intellect.

Her prowess at math and ability to take in information was off the charts – I remember she read a hockey almanack we had in a local library and she could tell you every Stanley Cup Champion from the 1920’s through the mid 80’s at the time.  She also knew who the leading scorer in the NHL was for every year and how many goals and assists they got that season.

She was also one of those people who could tell you that July 14th, 1957 was a Sunday – you could give her any day and she’d go back and work it what day of the week it fell on in a matter of seconds.

I found her curious whenever I would see her around, but most of the other kids were freaked out by her.  Those types of strange intellectual capabilities often result in a lack of social skills and she suffered a bit from that.

There was this one time though that I’ll never forget, we had a school fundraising fair and one of the games they had was you’d pay a quarter, they’d put a blindfold on you, they’d lift the lid off a plate, you’d smell what was on it, and if you guessed right, you got a prize.

She played this game, underneath the lid cut up into quarters was an apple.

This young girl said that she could smell “red”.

Everyone laughed and thought she was making a joke, but she persisted that she could smell the colour red.

The teacher who was running the game put the blindfold back on her, walked over a few feet away pulled some grass out of the ground, brought it back and made her smell it.

She said she could smell “green”.

Some people thought it was funny and she was having them on.  A few people thought it was a bit weird and wandered off.  I was curious and I think that male teacher also thought there was more going on than a very smart little girl playing silly buggers for the crowd.

It’s one of those memories I had that always stuck with me, but today, I was reading an article about a woman who had an extremely high, genius level IQ who had been diagnosed with synesthesia – a neurological development where some senses get intertwined.

Synesthesia has only become relatively accepted in the neurological sciences in the last ten to fifteen years as brain scan technology has improved and neurologists have the ability to see these people’s brains light up in the “wrong” spots or in concurrent places when they shouldn’t.

Interestingly, some neurologists now say that maybe some of these people with synesthesia have a completely different perspective on common reality than the rest of us because their senses are so out of order.

In the case of the patient in the article I was reading, the neurologist hypothesised that her brain had to be incredibly more efficient laying down neuro pathways and engrams because she was experiencing so many concurrent sensations that to make sense of this woman’s brain just ordered the information better and could retrieve it faster.

I love the topic of perception and perspective.

It got me thinking about this girl I grew up with – maybe because she only smelled things in a limited range of colours, she missed out on the amazing fragrances that we take for granted, but she could factor equations at the speed we take to tie our shoes.

Her entire perception of reality would have been entirely different from most of ours – how enlightening would that be if you could see the world differently?

I think that’s something we all need to do from time to time.

Earlier this afternoon, I ran across a problem in something I was working on in another part of one our businesses.  Something that we offer to some of our clients had just become extremely difficult to deliver on over the last few weeks and it’s soaked up SO MANY cycles trying to get it sorted, but we just can’t quite get there.

I just stopped, having read this article an hour earlier and thought – “What if I am smelling this problem all wrong?”

It was a crazy experience.  I found myself trying to re-wire my brain to not think of a solution or even an “out of the box” answer, but what if I just wasn’t even smelling an apple, what if I was smelling red instead.

After about a half an hour, I got this idea and called one of our clients who we deliver this for and said to him, “What if we stopped doing this?  What would be the impact?”

He replied with, “The impact to me would be a shortfall in and that would be a new problem.”

I had my answer – solve the other problem.

Without going into specifics, what we’re providing with this service is effectively a preventative for a different problem “included” in a different product.

Think of it like taking a Vitamin B Complex every day that has a Vitamin C supplement as well – it prevents scurvy by happenstance.  However, if you removed the C supplement and ate a couple oranges in the morning, you’d get probably more benefit.

We didn’t even realize that that’s what this other piece was ACTUALLY doing, because we never thought of it like that – we were smelling grass, not green.

I quickly pinged two other clients by Messenger and within 20 minutes we had the answer – kill the problematic part of the existing service, provide an additional offering separate but all inclusive for the same price.

Our quality and delivery speed goes up, our costs and complexity diminish!

The next time you run into one of these problems in your business that seems like you’re stuck in a paradox that you’re unable to resolve, try totally changing the way you view not just the problem or the solution, but the whole perspective on where that problem actually exists.

Think of it in 4D rather than just 3D in a manner of speaking.

Try and make your brain smell green instead of grass.

I don’t know whatever happened to that girl I knew growing up – it sounds bad, but I reckon she’s either working on developing quantum computers somewhere or she’s homeless and people think she’s crazy.

There’s a fine line between genius and madness and sometimes, I think we misunderstand both of them.

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