Oh, the Mistakes You’re Making

In business you often run into two types – the fretter and the “I know better.”

The “I know betters” are career oriented and believe that they’re smarter, more focused and more successful than other people. After all, their successes prove it. They tend to make their gut decisions based on what the Titans of industry have done in the past. They want to walk the proven roads to success. It’s American Idol but in a different arena.

Fretters worry about their decisions. They’re careful, cautious types. They don’t like making mistakes. And so they go to the experts when they have a decision to make.

Unfortunately, the experts and the Titans of industry are the wrong places to look for answers – especially when it comes to creativity and innovation. Well, maybe not wrong. Misinformed and misdirected might be better terms. The problem is that depending upon experts and giants is akin to solving problems with lenses adjusted to the past instead of the future.

Why? Because a Titan of industry succeeded by using methods … that were successful in the past. And an expert’s an expert because of their knowledge … of what’s happened in the past.

We forget that the Titans fell to the Olympians. Life’s changed. Industry’s changed. The world’s changed.  Oops!

Part of the problem is that people tend to simplify the world. After all, it makes dealing with life a lot easier.

We’re taught in school that there’s one solution. That there’s black – and there’s white. We forget that white is actually ALL colours blended together and not just one.

We oversimplify every day of our lives. And when we oversimplify and look from only one perspective, things go wrong. The experts knew that the light bulb couldn’t be frosted … until it was. They knew that overnight express delivery companies wouldn’t work. Or that airplanes would never fly. And women don’t want the vote.

The experts oversimplified because they were invested in being “an expert,” in being correct. They were invested in their own egos. They saw themselves as having put years and years into studying and examining. They had bought into certain ways of thinking. That was who they were. And so, being an expert blinded them to possibilities. They looked at new ideas only to try and find reasons why they wouldn’t work, not why they could, or how they could, or whether they should.

The problem is that it’s not just the experts that know wrong things. We’re making decisions everyday based on “facts” that “everyone knows.” We’re all invested in our egos. Our 12 years as a VP at XYZ Telecom. Or our 25 years as a sales manager. Or 15 years as a mom.

And our past is blinding us to our future, just the way that GE’s engineers were blinded to how the light bulb could be frosted – until a newbie employee showed them how to do it.

The next time you face a problem, stop, shake yourself, and STOP. Don’t shout, “Can’t be done!” or “Won’t work!” Instead, pause, and ask yourself, “What’s interesting about this idea? Why can it be done this way? What else could be done this way? How can this way improve our work?”

Future generations might applaud the fact that you paused.

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