Need a whack on the side of the head?

There’s an old saying, often considered conventional wisdom 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.

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. The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport,” journalist Robert Wieder said.

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.

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 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.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas.