Richard Maun – Spotting Snap-To-Grid Thinking

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Spotting Snap-To-Grid Thinking

25 February 2019

Grids can be useful. Chess would be a nightmare if we took the squares away and pieces were allowed to roam free. Maybe that’s worth doing…could liven up a slow game perhaps?!

Without a grid a spreadsheet is a collection of numbers, dropped lazily onto the page. Pretty, in its way. And pretty useless.

Maps need grids. Makes it so much harder to get lost and where would we be without lines of longitude or latitude? Probably lost on a grander scale.

So then, a grid is a useful thing to have. No question.

However, it can also be useful in terms of behaviour. Snap to grid, means to default to previous thinking patterns and when we cross the road most of us will repeat the look-left-look-right mantra we were taught as children.

We don’t have to think about how to cross a road each time we encounter one. Our snap to grid response clicks in and we know what to do.

Helpful with roads and driving skills too.


Not always so helpful when we are running our business and need to account for new ideas and new ways of working.

Instead of listening to an interesting fact, we can dismiss it instantly as not relevant to us, or as something which doesn’t apply to us. We pretend to listen to a reasoned argument and yet reject it instantly, once we have a chance to speak.

A favourite example of this runs as follows:

‘So Richard, how can I grow my business?’

‘Maybe get a PA to help you. He or she can work on admin tasks and give you space to do more sales work.’

‘Aah yes, but I can’t afford a PA.’

This is a conversation I’ve had many times. Have you spotted what’s missing from it?

Look again.

The answer is that the person posing the question gives their view of the answer firmly and without hesitating, not even bothering to ask how much a PA might cost. They assume a PA will cost say £20k a year and as they don’t have that much to spend they can’t afford one.

They don’t stop to ask how much I spend, what the value of the sales work could be, or how they can get business support in affordable ways.

Their default setting is that PAs have to be expensive and so their thinking snaps to the grid they hold in their head.

It’s the same with process improvement. When asked if they want to improve, by using Lean process tools, people often nod and say of course and then…

‘But that wouldn’t work here…’

Without actually asking what the tools are, or how they could be used in simple and sustainable ways. They’ve heard that Lean is expensive, or for big corporations, and so assume it’s not for their smaller business.

Really? We can all find ways to improve and we don’t have to be as big as Toyota to do that.

It’s good to spot snap to grid thinking in ourselves and our colleagues. We can then challenge it and take time to find out the facts, in order to make data-rational decisions.

For example, a PA might only cost us £50 a month and still add a lot of value to our business. Lean process work might only need one tool to smarten up our workspace and increase productivity.

Life can be simpler than we imagine and cost less too.

Grids keep us safe, when we are out walking with a map and when we are faced with a business decision that’s unfamiliar to us.

However, they also constrain our thinking, limit our freedom and can lead us to reject helpful ideas and new ways of working.

So, this week have fun noticing when we snap to grid …if we do, smile and apologise and then ask about the facts. It might be the best conversation we have all week!

Next week: The Michael Caine Approach To Success


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© Richard Maun 2015 / Click here to contact