Thursday, September 8

Something Borrowed

I've sheepishly raised the subject of my 'reading pile' before.  Much as I aspire to read regularly, I'm invariably months behind.

For you, dear reader, I feel this can only be a good thing.  How comforting it must be to read my observations on news events which you've had ample time to acclimatise to; and how pleasant must be the feeling of deja vu when I seem to be alluding to something groundbreaking which actually broke it's ground back in 2010.

With this in mind I'd like us to cast our minds back to the month of May.  Spring was in the air (a bit), Twitter's gossip was occupying the bored more than ever before, and we were all about to witness the collapse of a long-standing UK tabloid.

Had I been paying proper attention, I would have been delighted to spot an
article by Daniel H Pink in the Telegraph's "Business Thinking" column, presenting a set of research in support of something I already thought I knew.

This week, when I finally did read the column, I was delighted to see that something solid and scientific appeared to be backing-up a hypothesis I was already nurturing.

The contention was that it's much easier to arrive at unusual ideas if you're one step removed from the focus. That's to say: I'm far more likely to give you something new to think about if I work in a different company, or a different sector, or hold a different specialisation.

Although there's value in bringing local knowledge to a problem, there's even more value in applying scarcer foreign knowledge.

Several experiments were submitted as evidence:  In general, people were judged as more creative when trying to solve other people's problems.

In some respects this is just natural fallout from my
grand unified theory of creative thinking.  And it's encouraging to others in the field too, supporting as it does the idea of Weak Ties.

It leads me to question the Six Thinking Hats though: They certainly help surpress local knowledge, but they can't readily be used to replicate foreign knowledge.  And nor can any amount of attempted random provocation properly synthesise that outside nous.

Good news for me, perhaps, if I want to continue working in this area with clients.  But uncomfortable food-for-thought for anyone seeking to find all their ideas within the bounds of the immediate organisation.  Maybe one low-cost way to address the problem is an ideas exchange, where organisations lend their time to each other to provide these all-important outside perspectives.

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