New and better ideas
New ideas are fuelled by diversity, observation, curiosity and humour.
Loosely speaking, we are creatures of habit. We tend to do the same things over and over. We take the same route to work and eat at the same places. Even in our free time, we hang out at our favourite spots. Routine makes it hard for us to look at situations in a new light. Here are ideas on how to breakaway from our comfort zone.
Hang out with diverse people. We tend to surround ourselves with people that are like us. After all, having more in common leads to easily flowing conversations. Resisting this affinity could broaden our insight. More-of-the-same can help to confirm assumptions, but doesn’t expose us to new thinking. Spending time with people of different backgrounds and interests, does. We can use this new understanding to solve long-standing challenges.
Observe closely. You are conducting a survey to understand how people react to a certain stimulus. You ask questions and analyze the results. This practice is well established and it does have a legitimate place. The problem is that in certain cases, people think they’d react in some way while in reality they end up doing something else. This is when observing is better than asking. Seeing what people do in a certain situation instead of asking them what they’d do, will give you more accurate answers.
Ask and be willing to listen. In situations where simply asking can give us the insight we need, be sure to listen. In some cases, we will be trying to convince ourselves that something is a good idea or a bad idea. We try to convince ourselves because the outcome is beneficial to us in some way, which impedes our capacity to stay objective. So when we ask, we really need to listen for what comes back and we need to put it in the right context. Pay special attention to answers that contrast with your beliefs; those are the ones that we tend to carelessly dismiss.
Be curious. Be open to new ideas. New way of doing things. New routes to get to where you’re going. Design your life to encourage serendipity. It may at times feel like you’re wasting your time. You may feel like your way is better. And in many cases it will be. That’s where the challenge is: seek to learn new ways of dong something, but don’t waste your time relearning something you do well already. The best areas for keeping an open mind is when trying to solve a long-standing problem. You may realize that a newbie’s simplification of your complex world, is, in fact, the wiser course of action.
Relax. Curiosity, discovery and learning tends to happen more when we’re not trying to arrive to a specific outcome. Exploration requires that we try things that will fail. Taking things lightly and with some humour encourages failure by avoiding judgement. This helps people be okay with asking dumb questions and taking risks. Without dumb questions and risks, we’ll stay on the safe and predictable side, making it impossible for us to have new and hopefully better ideas.