There’s an old saying that sometimes you need a good whack on the side of the head. Nothing could be truer today in this speeding world of instantaneous communication.
While there are countless ways of doing so, many of us remain tied to the comfort of doing something in the same way. As a result, it becomes more difficult to think about doing it any other way.
It’s time for all of us to break out of this rut of familiarity. Let’s begin by looking somewhere else.
Finding new ideas or a new way of doing something is akin to prospecting for gold. If you look in the same old places, you’ll find tapped out veins. On the other hand, if you venture off the beaten path, you’ll improve your chances of discovering new ideas.
• Crawl out of your comfort zone. Every culture, industry, business or organization has its own way of looking at the world. Often the best ideas come from exploring the way others in different walks of life do things.
“Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum,” journalist Robert Wieder said. “The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.”
Where will you look?
• Borrow ideas. Throughout history people have used novel and interesting ideas that others have used successfully. Our ideas must be original only to their adaptation to the problem we’re working on at the time.
• Dig deeper. Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it’s the only one we have. Never stop with the first right answer you find. Look for others.
How do you keep a fish from smelling?
Grill it as soon as you catch it. Keep a cat around. Burn incense. Cut its nose off.
Remember, the best way to find a solution to something is to come up with lots of them.
• See the big picture. In 1866 an Iowa farmer watched the construction of the transcontinental railroad near his fields. After seeing the track laid and a locomotive steam by he thought, “So that’s what railroading is all about: tracks and trains.”
What didn’t he see?
That he could transport his products to more markets more quickly, and that once there they would compete against products from many more places. That people could travel coast to coast in less than a week. That more ideas would be shared, and different people would meet and marry.
The Iowa farmer saw the steel and wheels, but he didn’t see the consequences. Look for the larger implications of an idea. Look at the big picture.
• Expect the unexpected. Columbus was looking for India. Bell was trying to invent a hearing aid. Often what you’re looking for leads to something entirely different.
• Listen to that hunch. Your subconscious mind continually records and stores unrelated data from the outside world. Later, it combines these data into good answers, or what might be considered hunches.
If you simply ask, trust and listen these hunches can sometimes lead to the right solutions.
• Look for the obvious. “Only the most foolish of mice would hide in a cat’s ear,” designer Scott Love said, “but only the wisest of cats would look there.”
See what’s in front of your face or ear. Think about what you may be overlooking. The resources or solutions might be right in front of you.
• Ask a fool. That’s what the kings of old did to break out of the group-think environment their “yes-men” environment created. It was the fool’s job to see any proposal or discussion underway in a fresh light.
Peter Sellers, the brilliant British actor, played this to perfection in his last movie, “Being There.” He did so by extolling the trivial, trifling the exalted or reversing the common perception of a situation.
Here’s an example. If a man is sitting on a horse backward, why do we assume that it’s the man who is backward and not the horse?
Never assume things are a certain way. Shake up people’s assumptions and this will allow them to see things differently, sometimes more clearly.
Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “To those who are awake, there is one ordered universe, whereas in sleep each man turns away from the world to one of his own.”
Your dreams can help resolve conflicts, refresh thinking, inspire solutions and suggest different approaches.
Follow your dreams.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of knowledge and passion.