Predatory Thinking

Predatory Thinking

Predatory thinking. Street smarts. Whatever you want to call it, it's about writing the rules on your terms, rather than following someone else's; it's about changing behaviour through reframing a story or changing the context; it's about seeking unfair advantage to outmanoeuvre the competition.

Predatory Thinking starts and can only finish with the business or behavioural problem. In business and beyond, you are either predator or prey - and if you don't make the choice of which one to be, it gets made for you. Standing still is not an option.

This is where we collect examples of Predatory Thinking - past, present and with an eye on the future. Anyone can contribute, anyone can comment. Join in.
Follow us @thinkpredatory and join in #thinkpredatory

Join in

  • Seeing the problem

    A billion people in the third world have defective eyesight.
    But it isn’t lack of glasses that’s the real problem, it’s lack of opticians.
    This is the story of someone who thought upstream and solved the real problem that was causing the perceived problem.

    , ,

    All 4 Comments...
  • Remember to take your pill.

    In 1961 “The Pill” became available through the NHS.

    The Pill works on the body’s hormonal system and in a normal month, one needs to take 21 tablets. Its effectiveness relies on a consistent flow of the relevant drugs in the system during those 21 days. Forgetting to take your pill during one of the 21 days is a problem.

    So how do you remind people to take their pill for 21 days of a month?

    You don’t, it will never become habit forming so people will always forget.

    But you can get people to remember to take their pill on a daily basis, that’s habit forming. So they changed the packaging, to include 7 placebo sugar pills for the days when no pill is needed. The Predatory Thought was you’ll remember to take your pill every day if you have to take it every day.


    , ,

  • Off The Beaten Track

    You’re designing a new university campus. You’ve gone to all that trouble laying paths between the buildings. But what do those lazy students do? Yep, take shortcuts across the grass. We’ve all seen it. But how do you keep people on the path.


    , ,

    • Toheeb
      A predatory thought indeed
    1 Comment
  • scratch

    In New York, dozens of 1960 Renaults had to be sold to make way for the new 61’ models.

    So normally the dealers would knock $500 off to try and shift them, but nobody wants to buy last year’s car. But everyone loves a bargain.

    So legendary New York creative George Lois made a tiny scratch in the paintwork of each car, then covered it over with a Band Aid.

    He then ran an ad with a headline saying ‘ IF YOU CAN SPOT THE SCRATCH ON ANY OF OUR RENAULTS, WE’LL GIVE YOU $500 OFF.’
    Customers flooded in, clambering all over the cars, finding the plasters, peeling them up and being amazed how tiny the scratch was.
    The Renaults sold out before close of business on the first day.


    , , ,

  • university-challenge-logo

    University Challenge

    Oxford is a University town.
    Only the best, and most competitive, students go there.
    Oxford University is comprised of many different colleges.
    In the centre of town are four off-licences all selling beer.
    (Students like to drink a lot of beer.)
    Outside one of these off-licences is a large blackboard with the names of all the colleges on.
    Every time anyone orders a case of beer an X is put next to their college.
    Everyone can see which college is in the lead.
    If you were a competitive student, where would you buy your case of beer?

    , ,

  • IMG_8408

    Race to the top

    How do you get two skyscrapers built as fast as possible? Hire two different teams to compete against each other, with the winner laying claim to having built the tallest building in the world. The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpar were started in 1992 and completed seven years later…


    , ,

  • facebook_captcha


    Those squiggly words you have to enter on websites for security.
    A clever guy called Luis Von Ahn figured out that computers are good at identifying set patterns like letterforms, but not so good at interpreting randomly distorted letterforms, so far only our human brain has that capability. So any user entering a correct solution is presumed to be human and not a computer hacking programme.

    , , , , ,

    • simone Micheli
      That's amazingly clever. It would make another great post on this site. Why don't you submit it?
    • Mike Fensom
      Google took it even further with reCAPTCHA which not only works to prevents 'bots' but also helps to digitise books ...
    All 2 Comments...
  • Creative Cheating

    Akio Morita was the founder of Sony.
    One of his earliest products was the first transistor radio.
    Tiny by the standards of the time, it was about the size of a paperback book.
    Akio Morita wanted to call it a pocket radio, but it was just a little bit too big to fit into one.
    So he had hundreds of shirts made with oversized pockets, for all his salesmen.
    That way they could slip the radio into their shirt pocket when demonstrating it, to show how small it was.


    , ,

  • Ask-a-better-question

    Ask a better question.

    The Simpsons is one of most successful TV shows in the world. Their success comes from being consistently funny. Whilst other shows go on and off the boil, The Simpsons always turn out a good show. That’s why Homer’s been on our televisions for 23 seasons.

    They have funny writers but then so do most comedy shows. And everyone can use research or expert opinion but clearly these are never 100% accurate, or On The Buses would still be running. The Simpsons’ success lies in finding a way to filter their writers’ work with a far higher degree of accuracy.

    They simply turned a weakness in the animation process to their advantage. More…

    , , ,

  • pattontank1952Korea

    Old Skool Rules

    In the Korean war, a force of American and Chinese tanks surprised each other.
    But they were too close to fire.
    Their sophisticated sighting systems couldn’t work at such short range.
    And it was too dangerous to open the hatches and stand up to look out.
    No one knew what to do.
    Then one American gunner popped open the breech of his gun and looked down it.
    Like looking down a long drainpipe.
    Then he turned the turret until he could see a Chinese tank at the end of the barrel.
    Then he popped in a shell and fired.
    The Chinese tank exploded.
    He did it again and again until the Chinese retreated.
    They thought the Americans had a sophisticated new gunsight.
    That gunner’s predatory thought was going back to basics for the answer.

    , ,

    • Richard Parker
      Is that true ? Its much interesting Thanks for the share...
    1 Comment
  • full_1341942882blog-super-vitoria1

    Give Blood

    The passion for football in South America is legend.  Brazil famously holds the world record for attendance at one match; 194,603 people turned up to watch Fla play Flu with in 1963.

    Now, a Brazilian football team, EC Vitória, has now decided to get a bit predatory and use this famous passion the solve a social issue.  They are using fans’ love for the club to persuade them to give blood.

    Famously known as the ”Rubro-negro,” or “Red and Blacks,” their red and black shirts are an integral part of the the club’s and its fan’s identity. But this year they are white and black.  The club and fans will get their true identity back once they have collectively given enough blood.  They’ve even built in a measurement device so fans can see how far they have to go.

    P.s. the Fla – Flu game ended in a draw.


    , , , , ,

    • PJ
      Great idea from Vitória - can't imagine many teams having the balls to give this a try though. PS - Fla ...
    1 Comment
  • RedPencil

    Space Race

    During the space race back in the 60’s, the Russians and Americans were locked in competition.

    NASA was faced with a major problem, there astronauts needed a pen that could write upside-down, work in zero gravity, work in any temperature,     from  – 50°c  to  +150°c.

    NASA went to work.

    They spent several years developing it and $1.5 million, but it worked.

    The Russians were faced with the same problem.

    They used a pencil.


    • MikeFensom
      Albeit a nice anecdote, this story is nothing more than that I'm afraid (
    1 Comment
  • cola_life_pods_in_a_crate_of_coke


    In order to achieve the UN goals on child health, maternal health and combat HIV/AIDS, they had to overcome the fundamental problem of logistics.

    Getting essential drugs and medication to the remotest or politically troubled parts of the world was proving impossible.

    So they stopped asking ”how do we get our drugs there?”; and asked ”who already succeeds in supplying these regions?” instead. More…

    , ,

    • Toheeb
      A lovely idea.
    1 Comment
  • The Garage Owner

    A garage owner in the east of Northampton was sick and tired of thieves breaking into his garage shop to steal tools.

    So he gave his dog a haircut and put the word out that he had a new Mexican Lion that would attack anyone that tried to break in or climb his fence.

    Would-be thieves saw the ”Lion” from a distance and fled the scene.



    , ,

    • Dean Brindley
      Is that one of those 3 litre Rovers?
    • john p woods
      I always enjoyed interacting with the local kids at old trafford and their predatory thinking. Look after your car mister? No, ...
    All 2 Comments...
  • crouching-tiger1

    Change The Context

    Two explorers were walking through the Malaysian jungle.
    Suddenly they heard the roar of a tiger behind them
    Then they heard the pounding feet crashing through the undergrowth.
    The first explorer took a pair of Nike running shoes out of his backpack, and began to put them on.
    The second explorer said ”You’re crazy if you think you can out-run a tiger.”
    The first explorer said ”I don’t have to out-run the tiger. I just have to out-run you.”

    , ,

  • ipod_1757255c

    Taking The Lead

    When Steve Jobs launched the iPod it was the coolest thing around.
    But the problem was you kept it in your pocket.
    This meant you couldn’t show everyone how cool you were.
    It also meant other people couldn’t see that all the coolest people owned iPods.
    All anyone could see was the headphone lead.
    The black headphone lead.
    Because every music player in the world had a black headphone lead.
    So Steve Jobs did the opposite.
    iPods became the only music players with white headphone leads.
    Even if you couldn’t see the iPod, you knew what it was.
    All the coolest people had white headphone leads.
    In fact, even the advertising majored on the white headphone leads, not the iPod.
    That’s really predatory thinking.

    , , , ,

    • Simon Thornton
      And thieves learned to nick the devices on the end of a white headphone cable, so Londoners switched out to ...
    1 Comment
  • play-made-energy

    The power of play

    When you are trying to solve a problem it is easy to get caught up on focusing on the things you haven’t got. There’s always another bit of research that would really help. The predatory thinker uses what he does have.

    Rural Africa is rich in a lot of things but when it comes to reliable access to cheap basic commodities, like water or energy, it’s very poor. Dirty water kills 4.5 millions children a year but any solution has to be robust. Things break, so anything that cannot be mended with the things you find in a small remote village just won’t work.

    The answer comes from looking at what you do have.


    , ,

  • Elephant-dung

    Special Delivery

    A particular plant in Africa secretes sap that elephants love.
    The elephant eats the bark, and at the same time swallows the plant’s seeds.
    The elephant then continues walking.
    The seeds are eventually pooped out far away from the plant.
    The predatory thought is that the plant gets its seeds distributed far and wide, ready-wrapped in a ball of manure, using the elephant as a delivery vehicle.


    , , , ,

  • cphskate

    Wet Look

    A skatepark in Denmark was struggling to maintain a high volume of customers during the winter. So they decided to create this sign and planted in front of a puddle at the skatepark entrance.

    This way those that debated whether or not to skate in wet conditions now had to abide by the park’s customs.



    • Matt Sharper
      what does it say dude?
    1 Comment
  • rugby-image1

    Going the distance

    John Blake ran because he couldn’t kick. That’s what he used to joke anyway. He was fly half (and captain) to my scrum half in a Bristol team that used to run everything. From anywhere. It makes me chuckle to hear the modern professionals talking about how you mustn’t ‘play too much rugby in your own half’ and ‘field position is everything’. Well, we used to just go for it – from our own half, from our own line, from wherever we happened to find ourselves on the pitch. We got results too – over four seasons playing together, from 1957 to 1961 we played 184, and won 135 – against the very best clubs in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

    So how did we do this? More…

    , , ,

    • Paul
      This is an interesting story about a rugby union team adopting a rugby league training regime to beat the opposition.
    1 Comment
  • hippo

    Re-inventing the wheel

    The problem of getting clean water in regions like Sub Saharan Africa has been mentioned before. Clever ideas like playpump power wells to provide villages with a constant supply of clean water. However there is still the problem with getting the water from the pump back home.

    On a daily basis children and women have to spend hours transporting gallons of water. Time that could be better spent on education or more productive activities. And, the physical impact over carrying that weight of buckets and barrels was causing significant spinal injuries.



  • EVERTON_club_crest

    A lot’s in a name

    When Everton FC wanted to open a store in Liverpool’s new shopping centre, they needed to come up with a name.

    They couldn’t just call it ‘The Everton Store’, because everyone knew that was at their home ground, Goodison Park.

    Their first store, in other words.

    So they changed the name of the original store to ‘Everton One’. And called their new store ‘Everton Two’.

    Now everyone knew which store they were talking about in their advertising.

    But there’s another reason they settled on ‘Everton Two’. And that’s because the shopping centre is called ‘Liverpool One’.

    So in every advertisement, website and leaflet, the address became… ‘Everton Two, Liverpool One’.



    , , ,

  • tumblr_ll6wg7MPl41qzo7v3o1_400

    Ask the right question

    One of the rules of charity fundraising direct mail is to use a donor’s previous donation levels to guide what you ask for in the future. But a few years ago someone at Amnesty had a predatory thought to challenge this ‘rule of the game’.

    People often give what you ask them to; they follow the system defaults. So following their donation history will only tell you what they are comfortable giving in reaction to your prompts, not what they could give.

    So, in addition to the usual £15, £20 & £25 donation prompts, Amnesty added a fourth prompt for £250,000.00; the total amount they needed to raise to cover the total legal fees they were fundraising for.

    Okay, no one gave the £250,000 but two people did give £100,000 each.

    Image – bibzornot

    , , , , ,

    All 2 Comments...
  • Seeing red

    Every year, around this time, Coca Cola trot out an ad similar to the one above.  The message is always the same… Santa Claus is coming, Santa Claus is coming. The reason they never change the idea is a bit of predatory history.

    In 1930 Coca Cola decided to use Santa in their winter campaign and turned to the artist Haddon Sundblom to develop the ads.  The predatory thing he did was to turn Santa from a blue or green coated man of legend into the red coated version we all know today, the Coca Cola red version.  By the end of the huge global campaign they’d unified our view of what Santa looked liked; in a way they’d taken ownership of Christmas.  And now anyone using the image of Santa doing Coke’s job for them.

    Coca-cola’s coming, Coca-cola’s coming.

    , , , ,

    • Brian Towell
      Historically, Coca-Cola was not the first soft drink company to utilize the modern image of Santa Claus in its advertising—White ...
    • Martin Shaw
      Just one snag. Nobody knows that now
    All 2 Comments...