“The real act of discovery,” wrote Marcel Proust, “consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” The trick is to cultivate what George Carlin called “vuja dé”: a strange sense of unfamiliarity in the familiar, thereby revealing opportunities or solutions you hadn’t previously noticed.
But the question is: How? Manipulating the world we see through our mental lenses comes naturally to us. Seeing and manipulating the lenses themselves, on the other hand, feels much tougher: It’s like trying to explain the concept of water to fish. But Colum McCann’s eight-point-font trick points the way: Frequently, the way out of stuckness is to defamiliarize yourself with what you’re working on by shifting your perspective.
One simple technique is to put physical distance between yourself and the problem. Research suggests that people rate an idea as more creative when it’s described as having originated in some far-away country, perhaps because they picture it, in their mind’s eye, as “off in the distance,” so that only its most important features stand out. By contrast, when it’s pictured as being close at hand, they’re more likely to get bogged down in irrelevant details, or nitpicking objections. Maybe that’s why it always seems like you get your best ideas on airplanes, or hiking in Glacier National Park: Your challenges seem far off, so the basic contours of a solution to your problem, or the next step for your project, stand out.
If hopping on a plane isn’t an option right now, try simulating temporal distance instead: That’s the message of the timeworn advice to imagine the eulogy at your own funeral. Looking back at your life from this imagined future perspective, it’s suddenly far easier to see what really matters, which battles are worth fighting, and how you’ll be proud (or ashamed) to say you spent your time.
Alternatively, externalize your thoughts by writing them down in a journal. The point isn’t necessarily that you’ll have an instant breakthrough, but that by relating to your thinking in this “third-person” way, you’ll loosen the grip of the old assumptions, seeing your thoughts afresh, and creating potential for new insights.Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter exactly how you choose to deliver a jolt to your unseen assumptions and fixed perspectives. What really counts, when you’re faced with a challenge, is remembering that it’s even an option.
Tim Brown: The biggest barrier is needing to know the answer before you get started. This often manifests itself as a desire to have proof that your idea is worthwhile before you actually start the project: “show me the business proof that this is going to be a good idea.” You can understand this, of course, because it’s an attempt to mitigate risk. But wanting to know whether you’ve got the right idea—or the assumption that you’ve got to have a business case—before beginning to explore something kills a lot of innovation.
Now, if you want to do some incremental innovation in a market, with products you understand well, then there’s a reasonable argument that you should have a pretty good business case. But not if your ambition is “to create the next iPod.” Steve Jobs didn’t know what the business case was going to be for the iPod before he started.
The innovation process is a series of divergent and then convergent activities—a very simple concept, but one that a lot of leaders used to managing efficient processes in their businesses struggle with.
Besides allowing viewers to get to know both individuals and what they think of each other, the interview covers a lot of history of the personal computer, software development, standard adoption, and other subjects with which younger students might not be familiar.
Most creativity is a combination of instinct and practice. I’m always suspicious of anybody who has some kind of succinct advice to give, because I think it’s different in all cases. Ernie Bushmiller, who did [the comic strip] Nancy, he’s famous inside the syndicated-cartoon world for having said, “Dumb it down.” He’d say, “You know, I like your work, but you’d need to dumb it down, dumb it down.” And that was his belief — that a cartoon needed to be excruciatingly dumb and obvious for people to enjoy it. And it worked for him. And people who love Nancy will say, “It’s just so dumb, I can’t resist it.” It obviously worked for him. But it would not have worked for Gahan Wilson. It would not have worked for me….
I think that all great art comes from inside, and it’s a combination of your own instincts and talents and the amount of practice and effort that you put into it. And eventually you get somewhere good and that becomes your secret. (cecil vortex)