THE POWER OF VUJÀ DÉ
Take a fresh look at old
policies and methods.
BY KAREEM SHAKER, PMI-RMP, PMP
Kareem Shaker, PMI-RMP, PMP, is a senior manager, project and enterprise risk at Dubai World,
Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Follow him on Twitter at @kareemshaker.
at this experiment conducted by Gary Hamel in his
book Competing for the Future. Four monkeys live
in a cage. Inside the cage is a ladder with a bunch
of bananas at the top. Every time one monkey tries
to eat bananas, the monkeys are showered by cold
water. When the monkeys learn the pattern, they
prevent any monkey from climbing the ladder.
One monkey is replaced with a new one. The
new monkey—not knowing about the cold-water
spray—tries to get bananas and is stopped. This
continues, and eventually all of the monkeys are
replaced, and they all prevent each other from
climbing the ladder without knowing the reason
Sometimes it’s worth questioning why we accept
the way things are, when an innovative solution
may be just out of the normal reach.
HOW TO PRACTICE VUJÀ DÉ
Now that you know the possible pitfalls, project
practitioners can use many techniques to practice vujà dé: critical thinking, 5W1H (who, what,
where, when, why and how), 5-Whys (
questioning the subject problem five times to identify root
causes), challenging assumptions, brainstorming,
steps to boost efficiency
of procedures) and flipping preconceived ideas.
Think about how you,
as a practitioner, might
look at projects through
a singular scope. Allo-
cate some time to
and procedures from all
sides. Practicing vujà dé
may help you find innovative solutions to project
French novelist Marcel Proust wrote, “The real
act of discovery consists not in finding new lands
but in seeing with new eyes.” Some people call
this vujà dé: the feeling of experiencing something
commonplace as if it were the first time. As project
managers, we sometimes fall into the trap of
relying on the familiar, everyday routine and
approach the same problems in the same ways. It’s
important to understand human nature in order to
harness the power of vujà dé and look at the same,
familiar policies in a new light.
THE INVISIBLE GORILLA
We are blind to what we don’t allow ourselves to
see. For example, in the book The Invisible Gorilla
by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, a
number of people were asked to watch a video
of two basketball teams bouncing balls back and
forth. Viewers were asked to count the number of
bounces by one team, and though most viewers
counted correctly, most did not notice the person
in a gorilla costume moving from one side of the
screen to the other.
By giving your utmost attention to one detail
rather than any other details, you won’t see the
unexpected events. The same holds true with
project management. Being laser-focused on one
problem in a project could mean completely missing another problem.
DON’T CLIMB THE LADDER
We tend to accept convention and don’t often
challenge the norm. But unless we ask the right
questions, we won’t be able to come up with
creative answers to problems.
If you’ve ever wondered why your organization
follows a procedure that doesn’t make sense, look