Jun 25, 2008

Necker Cube and the Art of Planning

A Necker Cube is a two-dimensional line drawing that’s perceived by the human eye as a transparent three-dimensional cube. The optical illusion it’s famous for, however, doesn’t just end there.

Stare at the Necker Cube for a while and you’ll suddenly see it flip to face a different direction. Keep on staring at it and you can get it to flip back and forth between these two different faces.

According to Wikipedia, this illusion is perpetrated because of the way the lines of the cube are drawn – when they intersect, there’s nothing to tell us which of the lines is in front and which one is behind. This makes both interpretations perfectly valid – thereby hiding, and revealing, a different face to the cube.

The Necker Cube is also my favourite analogy for what a planner – and the discipline of planning – should do. I believe it’s a planner’s job to stare at the world long enough to find the flip-view in a certain situation. A view that’s consistent with everything you know – but one that’s often invisible to the casual eye.

The world is full of intersecting lines where – in reality – there’s no information about which one’s in front and which one’s behind. Similar to our casual first view of the Necker Cube, we adopt a straightforward interpretation that seems obvious – and neglect looking for other valid ways of seeing the same thing.

By deliberately focusing on the intersections in the world – a planner should open a window for others to see what was imperceptible earlier.
About the author:
Iqbal Mohammed is Head of Innovation & Strategy at a digital innovation agency serving the DACH and wider European markets. He is the winner of the WPP Atticus Award for Best Original Published Writing in Marketing & Communication.
You can reach him via email or Twitter.


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