“Sophisticated” Brainstorming

“Sophisticated” Brainstorming

Ever heard of the Sophists? Even if you haven't, you may have some ideas as to their character based on our modern words sophistry or sophisticated. They don't have the best of reputations.

The Sophists were a group of Greek traveling teachers. Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle looked down on them because they tended to focus more on teaching people to win debates than on searching for truth. Some Sophists boasted that they could successfully argue either side of an issue. (Sounds like modern high school debate clubs took a page from their book.)

I briefly studied the Sophists in a history class and found a great appreciation for a work of theirs called the Dissoi Logoi. Where some philosophers at the time might argue that certain things were all good or all bad, the Dissoi Logoi looks at how an event might be good for one group of people and bad for another. For example:

When a ship sinks, it’s bad for the person who owns it, but good for the shipbuilders (job creation!).

A victorious war is bad for the defeated and good for the victors. (Probably it’s not that great for the dead, either.)

The point is vaguely reminiscent of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s famous statement, “many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”

It's a simple thought, but can be very useful in brainstorming.

This situation is bad for us. Who is it good for? How? Can we partner with them? Can we compete with them? Are there services they need? Who else is negatively affected? Would they make good partners?

This situation is good for us. Who is it bad for? Why? Can we do anything to help them improve their situation? What are their needs? How can we accentuate the benefit we’re receiving? Who else is benefiting—might we partner to increase the good to all of us?

We're not directly involved in this situation. What are the sides? How are they benefited/hurt by the situation? What are they likely looking for to (continue to) improve their lot?

How else could you use this thought to benefit your brainstorming?