For today’s momentum Monday, we are going to do a drill that is more mental than physical, yet I think it’s definitely an exercise worth doing. I always find it enlightening and invigorating to think about business problems – and potential solutions – outside my sphere of expertise. Challenge yourself to think about something you are not familiar with – the results will amaze you.
Step 1: Question Everything
Today (and maybe tomorrow, if you are feeling extra wild) question everything you do. This may seem easy – but it’s not. There are so many things that we have grown accustomed to taking as given – that’s the way it has always worked, so that must be the optimal way for it to work – and it’s mind blowing how many assumptions we make every day!
So today, try to question everything you do. Why do you need to set your alarm clock, why doesn’t it learn what time you need to wake up on each day and adjust accordingly? Why do you need to lock your door, if they already have the same technology for distance based locking on cars? Is there no better way to spend an elevator ride than reading random news snippets? You have the audience for at least 20 seconds, and a great deal of their attention. Ask these questions, and you will start to amaze yourself with the ideas you come up with. In my very limited time on this planet I have come to one conclusion: most people are very good at thinking about and understanding solutions – what most people lack is the ability to identify problems.
Step 2: Ponder this List
Perhaps you can’t think of anything to question – it just isn’t working for you. Here’s another exercise. Go through Y Combinator’s list of start-ups they are looking to invest in (this list if from 2008), the list is here: http://ycombinator.com/ideas.html.
For each item, think of how you could potentially improve, change, or execute on the area. How could achieve what they are looking for. I am not saying that you go out and start a company to fill one of their areas of interest (although that would be great, and you can give me 5% equity for suggesting the article!) I’m just saying that you get in the frame of mind to solve these kinds of problems. An innovative mindset is like any muscle – the more you work it, the stronger it gets. Warm up with step 1, then apply those muscles to step 2. Then do it again today, and again tomorrow, and you will be amazed what you come up with.
Step 3: Info-Sponge
I can’t say I came up with this idea, but it’s a great way to open your mind. At Tedx, Jeff Hoffman said he likes to participate in an act called ‘info sponging’. The idea is to read about another industry or market, just for the sake of getting a diverse view – who knows, maybe something they are already doing will be applicable in your own business. Spend 20 minutes every morning looking around the web at what others are doing, be it in healthcare, construction, energy or real estate. Remember: “the world’s most innovative people remove all their filters and open their mind.“
Think like a start up – think about problems, and with those problems you will readily think up solutions. While you might not quit your job any time soon to follow up one of your ideas, the mere act of discovering and solving problems will help you in every other facet of your life.
Blair Livingston’s Blog