209 – Take the Opposing View

Posted by  Anecdote International —July 2, 2024
Filed in Anecdotes, Podcast

In Episode 209 of Anecdotally Speaking, discover how asking the right questions brought us GPS – and how you can take these lessons into your work.

In Episode 209 of Anecdotally Speaking, Mark shares the fascinating origin story of the GPS system. Learn how curiosity and a fresh perspective enabled Johns Hopkins physicists to transform a simple concept into a life-changing innovation.

Today’s story can inspire new ideas in the workplace by encouraging inquisitiveness using ground-reversal creativity. It also highlights the importance of asking the right questions with an open mind.

This story is sourced from an interview with Martin Seligman on the HBR Idea Cast

For your story bank

Tags: Storytelling, Creativity, Ideas, Innovation, Physics

The story begins at 0:26:

In 1957 Russia launched Sputnik 1 which was the first satellite. This was part of the first stages of the space race, so America waned to be able to track the Russian satellite. There were two physicists at the applied physics department at John Hopkins University who figured out within hours how to accurately track where Sputnik was. They managed to do this using the Doppler Effect whereby the frequency of sound changes depending on whether objects are moving toward or away from you. They found that by monitoring the frequencies of Sputnik from two different locations on Earth they could determine its whereabouts. Using extensive calculations and one of the most powerful computers at the time – the Univac. And so the job was done… or so they thought. Roughly a year later the deputy director of the applied physics laboratory at John Hopkins queried about doing the inverse – using two satellites to find the position of someone on earth. That one question caused a plethora of prototypes that would eventually lead to the GPS system, which became fully operational in 1995.


David, Murray S. “That’s Interesting! Towards a Phenomenology of Sociology and a Sociology of Phenomenology.” Philosophy of the Social Sciences, vol. 1, 1971, pp. 309-44.

About  Anecdote International

Anecdote International is a global training and consulting company, specialising in utilising storytelling to bring humanity back to the workforce. Anecdote is now unique in having a global network of over 60 partners in 28 countries, with their learning programs translated into 11 languages, and customers who incorporate these programs into their leadership and sales enablement activities.

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