Lateral thinking: How to workshop innovative ideas | Dan Seewald


As we get older, it becomes a real benefit
to have a long history and tradition, the work that you do. It builds what you might call patterns or
rivers of thinking. And the more experience we glean, the more
education we acquire. We build deeper and deeper rivers. And those rivers are really valuable. Those patterns are important. But the challenge is that as those patterns
get deeper, we get locked into them. And it becomes hard to change our minds. It becomes hard to do things differently. That’s why children are absolutely amazing
at their lateral thinking, or the ability to think across different domains within an
instant. It’s because they haven’t built those patterns
or gone deep into those rivers yet. And while a river can be really valuable for
you as an expert in an area of neuroscience, let’s say, or it can be really useful if you’re
building a product forecast or doing market research, when you need new ideas, when you
need to break with the past, it could be really challenging. Because we know what we know, and it’s hard
for us to diverge or jump out of those rivers. But there’s good news for it. We can actually practice. We can cultivate this. We can take time to be able to build new patterns
of thinking, but only if we’re willing and if we have the desire to go and do things
different. And that is a really important intrinsic factor
— the motivation, the desire, to be able to get out of our normal patterns of thinking. Think about it this way for a moment. How many times have you gone to work the same
exact way, walking across the same city blocks or driving across the same roads? When have you said to yourself, I’m going
to go a longer route, I’m going to try something different? Maybe I’ll even bike to work. Maybe I could skateboard– maybe not skateboard. But you know what I mean, doing things differently. Because when you do things differently, it
actually starts to rewire our brain, and it pushes us in a very deliberate way to think
what we’ve never thought before. And there’s a lot of different lessons and
little secret ingredients that I think that could help prime or set people up to be able
to think different. So one, the battle is usually one or lost
before you ever step foot on the battlefield. I think it was George Patton who said that. And it really is true, not just in war or
in sports, but in innovation. The reason I say that is that it primes you. It gets you ready. You’ve already premeditated on the subject. And while that might put you in a pattern
of thinking, it also readies you to come in and to start thinking deeply on a subject. Often, we’ll throw out things in the moment,
in the instant, to people and hope that miraculously, they’ll have a great idea. It requires incubation time, which is a term
that’s used in neuroscience, where we allow for ideas to percolate before we actually
start to try to do something with it. So preparation is absolutely essential when
you want to achieve a big success in any type of workshop or design sprint or ideation session. The second thing that I believe wholeheartedly
in is this idea of play. So play is not something new, but it’s often
frowned upon in most of adult working states. Now, some companies have done an awesome job
of trying to change the story, Google, and Apple, and other companies that are a bit
more tilted towards the millennials. But us older folk also really like to play. When we were kids, we were all awesome at
play. It’s something that we did every day. And I like to bring play and game mechanics
back into workshops. Why is that? Because we can simulate what we’re going to
do through play, in game. And then, after we’ve done it with no risk,
no fear of failure, then we can actually have people do it on serious subjects. But we’ve built patterns. We’ve built a pathway in which people have
now played, and they’ve gone through the steps. And now they’re ready to do real and serious
work with a little bit more of a playful mindset. And you know what’s most important about the
play, about play and also about game mechanics? It’s that it puts us into a different mindset. From a neuroscientific standpoint, we are
not in the busy perturbations, the ups and downs instantly, in which we are thinking
in a transactional mindset, when you’re trying to make a quick decision, or you’re in the
office, and you’ve got to get through a project. It’s the more relaxed and loose waves. Those more relaxed and loose brainwaves allow
for longer thinking, slow thinking, as Daniel Kahneman, a famous economist, had described
it. And we need slow thinking as much as we do
fast thinking. Game mechanics are a great way to do it. The last I’ll just throw in– there’s many,
many other things that I would hint at. But one that I really love is about going
to the outside. If you want to fine art work, don’t go to
a gallery. Go to a junk yard. Go to a classroom with children. Why is that? Because innovation and bright ideas often
can be found in the different domains that we don’t usually go hunting in. We need to find different hunting grounds
or different places to search. So go somewhere unexpected. Borrow people from unexpected domains. Bring in children. Bring in a teacher. Bring in an ethnography. Bring in somebody who does salvage work, who
may have an insight that could apply differently to your problem. When you bring in different people and different
solutions from outside worlds, that’s what accelerates problem-solving. And this is nothing new. This concept has been around for nearly 60
plus years. The Soviet cosmonauts had used it. It was used in the Russian science, something
called TRIZ. And the TRIZ-nics were out there and would
borrow scientific solutions from all different domains. They would reapply them to new problems, and
then they would see how that might actually enlighten or open our eyes to solutions that
we wouldn’t have normally encountered, by using that approach. So it’s nothing new, but it’s really powerful. So those are a few things that you can apply
to be able to make your workshop or your solutions completely different than what you would normally
do in a workshop.

28 Replies to “Lateral thinking: How to workshop innovative ideas | Dan Seewald”

  1. Of course it's harder for older people to go outside their areas. When you have a competitive world like it is, you are in vast majority forced to be a specialist from the beginning.

  2. Is he talking about actual games? Like, maybe MMOs? Like, maybe group/raid and some dungeons? If so, then

    LEEEEEEEERRROOOOOOYYYYY
    mmmJEENNNNNNNKKIIIIIIIINNNNNSSSSS!!!!!!!!

  3. Big think should use more text animations to keep up whith each concept that every thinker gives

  4. This is the next step beyond the failed meritocratic system people intuit that they want. If humans lived longer (or studied particular subjects) we would have a better understanding of what "works" and does not. "Play" is necessary for good mental wellbeing.

  5. Hi everyone! If you currently facing a problem, feel free to share and as a high school student, maybe I could help you with a different way of thinking. (no worries, I don't sell anything, just wanted to strengthen my creativity with real problems and it could be beneficial for others aswell)

  6. This dude has a touch of the downs, both in the face as well as in his clearly stolen message… Thems some potato eyes if I ever did see em.

  7. Have heard this idea many times over. Problem is he couches it in bring in people with something for you to gain. This leads to bringing in positive re-enforcement and staus quo. To do this learn from people far and wide and from fields you are pretty sure have nothing to add. Listen and learn from various sides and not just people that agree with you. In the end, cast your net wider and gain more for it.

  8. As a member of the public school system, I can say with certainty that it actively discourages lateral thinking.

  9. Generally older more experienced pay young innovatives to make mistakes. If it fails they hire other young innovators to make mistakes. The accumulation of wealth generally is a sign of wisdom.

  10. So trait openess of the the OCEAN psychometric model (aka the curently held model of the APA)? Like this is a nearly static trait, not just a thing you can change ovenight. It could take years (and psychadelics).

  11. You've built a pattern of talking about how people have built patterns and how they're not being varied. Stop it. You're limiting yourself.

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