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Innovation Insights
by Stephen Shapiro

Relearning What You Know

The blog here has been quiet for a while. I was overseas for the past 2.5 weeks having a fantastic time. A handful of days in Lisbon. A week in England. And a few days in Oslo.

It was my first time to both Lisbon and Oslo. They are lovely cities.

And of course I always love visiting London. I lived there for four years. However, there is always something a bit disconcerting about being in the UK.

I have been driving a car in the states for nearly 30 years. I know how to drive. I drive well. And I don’t need to think about driving when I drive. It just comes naturally.

But when I am in the UK, that’s a totally different story.

The cars there have the steering wheel on the right-hand side. You drive on the left side of the road and pass on the right. Roundabouts (rotaries) go clock-wise. And for manual transmission cars, you shift with your left hand.

The task of driving a car in the UK is almost identical to driving a car in the US. But for me, the experiences are TOTALLY different.

I need to concentrate when I drive in the UK. When turning, I need to remember to go wide when turning right. I find it hard to judge the end of the car. While driving in South Africa last year, I came close to killing everyone in my car on several occasions.

It’s amazing how we can become very good at something. But when one thing is changed, we become incompetent.

Think about your job. Think about your life. What do you do well? What are you able to do without thinking, because it comes naturally?

Maybe these areas of your life and business represent blind spots. Places where there is an opportunity to grow and learn.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc, once said, “Creativity is just having enough dots to connect… connect experiences and synthesize new things. The reason creative people are able to do that is that they’ve had more experiences or have thought more about their experiences than other people.”

If creative people think more about their experiences or have more experience, then it is possible that the more you are on autopilot, the less creative you are.

What are the routines in your life? What small, subtle pieces can you change to fundamentally change the experience?  Remember, you don’t need to change everything, just something that moves you from unconsciousness to consciousness. I still know 99% of the skills required to drive a car.  Only 1% needs to be changed to cause me to think.

Visit a country where you don’t know the language. Change an aspect of your job so that you need to be more present to your actions. Speak with people you normally avoid. Change one attribute of a routine.

Do you want your organization to be more innovative? If so, your people need to get more comfortable with change.  Start by introducing small changes. Every morning, write down one small change you want to introduce into your day. Have everyone on your team do the same thing. Make the changes small. They should take little or no time.  They should be easy enough so that people will actually incorporate into their day.

If everyone on your team starts to introduce small changes on a regular basis, they will get used to frequent small changes.  And then, infrequent large changes won’t seem like such a big deal.