In one of his recent Monday Morning Memos, Roy H. Williams offered some excellent advice for people who are seeking to “think outside the box:” Talk to someone who doesn’t even know what box you’re talking about.
Ignorant people aren’t stupid but merely uninformed; a marvelous advantage when you need a perspective from “outside the box.”
The truly naïve are so thoroughly “outside” they’re not even sure what you mean by “the box.”
When you consult specialists within your industry, you’re talking to the builders of the box, the guardians of the box, the faithful defenders of THE BOX.
So when specialists fail to provide the innovative thinking you need, ask the opinions of intelligent people who have no experience in your industry. This is the second quickest shortcut to successful innovation.
The key, as Williams points out later in his piece, is that you have to listen, fully and carefully. Don’t interrupt with “Yeah, but…,”don’t judge what they’re suggesting, don’t try to explain to them why their ideas won’t work. Take copious notes and let them talk. Let them make their naïve suggestions.
Thank them for their time and insights. And then take what you’ve gained and think carefully about what they’ve told you. Look for the things that they’ve spotted that you haven’t because you’re too close, too familiar with the situation or the environment.
You can read the rest of Williams’ article (and find out what the quickest shortcut to successful innovation is) here: “Let Ignorance be Your Advantage.”
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