A blinding flash of the obvious

My first experience with consulting was when I hired a consultant for my small family business. We’ll call him Bob, because that was actually his name. Bob helped me a lot. As a semi-retired banker, he worked with me for about $500 a month (this was over a decade ago, so don’t draw any conclusions about pricing) and we just – talked, mostly. But his conversations were guided, and even if I didn’t quite know where I was going, I think most of the time he did.

I believe it was Bob who first introduced me to the phrase “a blinding flash of the obvious,” which I later realized was a common phrase – so common it’s sometimes referred to simply as a BFO. Anything that has its own TLA is likely to be in the public domain.

When Bob deployed this phrase, he was deploying a bit of self-deprecating humor. If he said “This will be a blinding flash of the obvious, but…” he was in essence saying “Hey, what I’m about to tell you is going to strike you as non-profound once it sinks in, because it’s not really hard to do or even figure out. But here we are, with me telling you, because – you haven’t seen it yet.”

Wait, now that I’ve spelled it all out it wasn’t self-deprecating at all. Dang it Bob!

But the thing is – everything is new to someone sometime. So we shouldn’t devalue an insight because – it’s obvious once we’ve seen it. This is actually the way of most insights. Most breakthroughs in business or life don’t involve calculus or even long division. Just stop hitting your thumb with the hammer!

I will add – this is another one of those problems in consulting. Because if you are paying someone $500 a month to tell you to stop hitting your thumb with the hammer, you are receiving value, provided of course that you have in fact been hitting your thumb with the hammer and his or her advice induced you to stop, realizing value of at least $501 over the lifetime of your no longer hitting your thumb with the hammer (or even doing it less often).

This post is adjacent to my blog series on Bulldust, in that I wrote it so that I’d have a place to link to the phrase “a blinding flash of the obvious,” and totally not an effort to cash in on the popularity of the Oppenheimer movie, the story of American scientist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and his role in the development of the atomic bomb. american politicsmanhattan projectnuclear physicist, and I didn’t steal that description from IMDB, either.