Jenga To Success


Success Through Deconstruction



The philosophy of deconstruction was developed in the 1960s by French philosopher Jacques Derrida, mainly for the examination and understanding of the relationship between text and meaning, and the fluidity of language.


And if you don’t understand that, neither do I. However, the act of deconstruction, whether in the physical realm or in our thoughts, ideas and imaginations, is a tool that can be applied to your business.


How often have we attempted to design a new product or service and run up against a brick wall? How often have we given this type of task to an employee or a department, and they too have been introduced to the same wall? What is there were another way?


Traditionally, we tend to work from idea to product. As expressed by Napoleon Hill, American self-help author, best known for Think and Grow Rich, “First comes thought, then organization of that thought into ideas and plans, then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.”



George Bernard Shaw expressed a similar concept when he wrote “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.”


One of the great things about our imagination is that we always imagine perfection, a better way to do something or a better way of life. You might argue “why don’t we imagine something worse?”. Well, you could, but I would put this in the category of worrying. Perhaps it is the optimist in me.


Typically, as articulated by Shaw and Hill, we are urged to use our imaginations, to go from small to large, start to finish and adding things in piece by piece until we build, at least in our minds’ eye, what we imagined.


There’s a reason why this method is so popular. It works. However, when we’re having difficulty putting all the pieces together, there is another method we can look at, and that is deconstruction.



When thinking de-constructively, we start at the end like reading the end of the a mystery novel first to see who the killer is. To use deconstruction, picture the completed project, service, or product. Imagine it performing perfectly. Then, like a game of jenga, start pulling pieces out and see what happens. However, unlike a game of jenga, once you’ve pulled a piece out and imagined what would happen, put that piece back and pull out a different one. You can pull out multiple pieces later on, but the purpose here is to get a feeling as to the importance of each individual piece. Once you’ve done this, you’ll have a greater understanding how critical each piece is to the finished product.


The next step is to ascertain the relationships, or dependability, of one piece to another. Which piece, once removed, would cause the entire tower to collapse?


I especially like the analogy of jenga because it’s three-dimensional. Examining any construction on a two-dimensional timeline or gantt chart limits your perspective.


The real world is not two-dimensional and limiting your examination this way won’t reflect the whole picture or reveal everything that could fail.


Take the liberty to jump right to the end. Imagine the perfect outcome. Then, instead of starting from the beginning, deconstruct your idea. I believe that this approach will give you a faster and more realistic understanding of what it is you’ll need to do to succeed.


Obviously, at some point, you’ll need to take all you’ve learned through deconstruction and start from the beginning. However, I believe that you’ll be better off knowing ahead of time what is most important to success as well as recognizing how the pieces fit together and which pieces are dependent upon another. In this way, you can avoid false starts and backtracking. False starts and the subsequent backtracking can be expensive, resulting in lost productivity and project delays.


In the quest for success, perhaps we should occasionally start at the end?