From Silly Questions to Innovation
I ask a ton of silly questions.
Ages ago I was exposed to the fast food restaurant technique. It goes something like this: when colleagues are endlessly discussing where to eat, just propose going to a cheap, bad and dirty restaurant. It removes the blocker and re-aligns people towards a resolution. And nope, normally fast food is not the pick.
If we are not open to silly ideas, then why even bother with a creative activity in the first place?
In a recent workshop I attended one rule was “all ideas are brilliant”. Yes, at first an idea could be raw, maybe even silly. However, by thinking outside the box, it may turn into something innovative. More often than not though, it will be a draw in the blank. Still, if we are not open to silly ideas, then why even bother with a creative activity in the first place? In fact, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
We carry a huge amount of bias around. Plus, we are ready to defend our ideas to death. Being challenged with something silly somehow disables defence mechanisms and dissolves assumptions. Suddenly the invisible bounding box is gone. If you ever got stuck solving the “9 dots puzzle” you would know the feeling.
Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to unbias oneself. We don’t see the box because we don’t know it’s there. A great example comes straight out of a commercial project. The solution I devised turned out to be slower than the silly idea the client proposed. The latter ended up improving perfomance by 90% and solved a problem that had been around for a few years. I got stuck in a locally optimal solution because I could not see past my mental model.
Newcomers and non-technical people, with their different mental models and fresh eyes, make for perfect ideas sparring partners.
An expert is somebody who has a vast knowledge of a topic and a broad experience. This is what allows them to shortcut to a solution faster. But that is also the definition of bias. For that reason, veterans should be looking for peers to challenge their thoughts. Newcomers and non-technical people, with their different mental models and fresh eyes, make for perfect ideas sparring partners.
Be silly, be creative!
Shoutout to Paweł for helping me navigate the thoughts that ended up being this ramble 💙
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