2 Mindsets for Responding to New Ideas

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Our weekly feature, The Tipsterbrings you easy-to-digest tips on topics that matter to your innovative work.

This Week: What mindsets can we adopt when encountering new ideas?

Edward de Bono says that when we come across new ideas or approaches that are unlike what we’ve done in the past, we naturally tend to hold them up to our best judgment.

Mindset #1: How does this idea stack up against my past experience?

The problem with this approach — one based on our judgment — is that if the idea is genuinely new and discontinuous with what we’ve done in the past, it won’t stack up against past experience. Or if it does, it will relate to an earlier time when we tried that same idea. The natural impact of using our judgment is that we bounce right back to where we were and we naturally and immediately reject it. We do this in 1/1000th of a second. We’re taught, with good reason, to apply our best judgment to all the new things that come up in our lives. As we go on improving our business as usual, we want to ensure that we are using our past experience to continue to improve things.

Mindset #2: What can we make of the idea?

However, when we come across new ideas and try to innovate, de Bono suggests that we need to have a different mindset. He calls it movement. He suggests that we ask ourselves a very different question: “What can we make of the idea?”

This question is interesting for two reasons. First, it addresses a plural entity, not a singular one. Instead of focusing on my individual response or judgment, it acknowledges us as a group working together on this idea. Second, it contains this idea of improvement. A new hypothesis is a raw idea – one that we can’t immediately accept or reject, but rather improve, expand upon, or “make something of.” If we can adopt that new idea and suspend our judgment, we can use it to boost us into the future. And that’s the way we’re likely to come up with innovative strategies.

Have you found yourself or your team in a similar situation – where you needed to suspend your best judgment in order to adopt a mindset of movement? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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  • It’s great to consider each of these mindsets. Recently, I enjoyed a piece by Chad M. Bauman, “The Subscription Equation and Other Tactics”, on his Arts Marketing blog. He shares how Arena Stage in Washington D.C. rebounded after their subscription base plummeted from 2002 to 2007. In 2008, they analyzed the Arena’s past successes and interviewed current subscribers. They looked at how it stacked up against their past experiences, and wondered what they could make of the ideas.

    Chad also considers the concept of testing and failing:

    “The only way to succeed is to fail. The key is to succeed on a grand scale, and fail on a small one. Aggressively measure the success of every campaign, no matter how small. And test something new at least every week.”

    http://arts-marketing.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-subscription-equation-and-other.html

    In the midst of judging and analyzing, we must always try out new ideas. If we don’t act on them, we’ll never grow. Testing and failing is a third prong to successful innovation.