Don’t be “A Square” – Escape from Flatland and start thinking in new ways

Don’t be “A Square” – Escape from Flatland and start thinking in new ways

In 1884, Edwin Abbott Abbott wrote a book called Flatland. I’ve always loved the analogy of that book and recently was reminded of it during a RadioLab podcast. Nothing is more dangerous to a business or a brand than stagnant thinking or being mired in the same whats and hows forever.

In the book, the character “A Square” lives in a two-dimensional world – only able to move in two directions, back and forth. More than a century later I often find myself behaving more like “A Square” than I’d like: Moving restlessly back and forth in my perceived boundaries.

But shouldn’t I be consciously trying to break away from my traditional limits of thinking and action? What if I allowed myself to be freely influenced by a more three or even four dimensional way of looking at things? Imagine the solutions that might present themselves if I looked past the limits of my preconceptions – beyond the obviously visible…

Stepping outside of the places we traditionally seek inspiration can have pleasantly unexpected results. New ideas and new energy can come from just about anywhere – see where a few of these ideas take you (and your brand):

Do a walking meeting around an art gallery or museum, or even just around your neighborhood. As I talked about in my On Looking blog, when you choose to look around it’s amazing what you see.

Listen to a podcast on a topic you know nothing about while on your commute (RadioLab, This American Life and Snap Judgement are personal favorites) and let your mind wander.

Read 20 pages a day. This is a personal goal of mine, and with just 20 pages a day for the past six months, I’ve managed to expand my reading list dramatically. Brain Pickings is a great source of reading inspiration, and if you don’t have time for the book, their wonderful cliff notes summaries are sure to inspire by themselves.

I posted my brand building reading list a few weeks ago but other books from recent travels include: Flash Boys by Michael Lewis, The Rise by Sarah Lewis, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield, Play it Again by Alan Rusbridger and The Brain that Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge.

Channel Benjamin Franklin and set up a salon get together of people from different places and spaces. Discussing ideas with people who hold different ones is a great way to see things from a new perspective. Or if you don’t want to put one together, a quick Google search will reveal lots of salon action around that you can join.

See you next week with “The possibility and peril of partnerships”.

Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at





Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments