Albert Einstein once said that “insantiy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Innovation is, then, about thinking outside the box and finding that brand new idea, right?
Thinking outside the box has become a cliched way to describe innovation – an ironically inside-the-box way to motivate someone. It is also incredibly difficult, probably because no one really know where the box is, how big it is, or what’s in the box.
Our world is populated with myriad of boxes. In the new world where information flows at the speed of electrons in every industry, every iteration of an idea has at some point been conceived, if not already attempted. Google was not the first search engine, Microsoft did not make the first GUI-based operating system, Facebook was not the first social website. The world had thought the search engine, the GUI, and the social network were niche products for the technology business, the geeks, and the science fiction novels.
Only when looking back 10 years later can we gleam a hint of new boxes in the making during those times.
So maybe “thinking outside the box” had it backwards all along, that we should be thinking without worrying about the box – that when a set-back pushes us down, it is worth to just stand up, brush off the dust on our buttocks, and charge right back into the fray with renewed vigor. Boxes are for those looking back, not for the people that must keep moving forward.
When coming up with new innovation, designs, or just another idea, sooner or later there will come an idea that few people like.
The normal distribution curve is shaped with most of its value surrounding the mean. This is the curve many things in nature follow – most of us are somewhere around the average intelligence, for example. Most people are somewhere around the average height with few tall and short individuals. And most of us have somewhere around the average ability to imagine what the future looks like.
If we were to plot ideas along a bell curve, we would have the few rare brilliant concepts in the far right, where most people in the middle of the bell curve would fail to appreciate.
So sometimes truly great ideas are so out of the box it is a statistical certainty that they are lost to the appreciation of the masses.
The question is, what will you do when you find next idea surrounded by nay-sayers – will you listen to them, or will you push forward with head held high?
… is the average attention span.
Marketing theory says seven seconds is how much time a digital marketeer has to prime a customer’s attention. Entrepreneurship adage claims that the first seven seconds of an elevator pitch matters the most. It’s how long we take to figure out what’s on TV before deciding to switching the channel, how much time elapses before your doctor interrupts your “what happened,” and how quickly we grow tired of the mundane for a better thrill.
[I]t was the curious power of electronic collaboration that contributed to the New Groupthink in the first place. What created Linux, or Wikipedia, if not a gigantic electronic brainstorming session? But we’re so impressed by the power of online collaboration that we’ve come to overvalue all group work at the expense of solo thought. We fail to realize that participating in an online working group is a form of solitude all its own.
Susan Cain, Author, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
Any aspect of life to which attention is directed will loom large in a global evaluation. This is the essence of the focusing illusion, which can be described in a single sentence:
Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.
Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize-winning Economist, in Thinking, Fast and Slow
“Resilient people […] possess three characteristics: a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise.
You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three.”
Diane L. Coutu, senior editor at Harvard Business Review, as cited.