Thursday, January 03, 2008

Prisoners Of Our Own Experience

There was a great article in the New York Times on December 30, Innovative Minds Don't Think Alike. It suggests "as our knowledge and expertise increase, our creativity and ability to innovate tend to taper off."
While the article focuses on innovation and creativity, we encounter the same issue in our work with clients every day. We all become prisoners of our own experience. By that, the solutions that people look for tend to be the same old solutions that have been used over and over.
Organizations and people tend to define their strategies, processes, and approaches to business, based on their collection of past experiences. Some benchmark their competition, either copying practices or reacting to competition. Most executives are knowledgeable of their own organizations and what is happening within their industry.
However, many of these efforts do not create new and innovative practice for the organization. They represent small increments in improvement but not the dramatic change. The same thoughts and approaches, maybe polished up, are cycled and recycled within the organization and the industry.
To escape this prison and drive dramatic change in business, people and organizations need to look outside their companies and industries. In the New York Times article, it is suggested that outsiders and consultants can help organizations get a fresh look at things. This is a great approach. However, it is important that executives make a consistent practice of looking at other industries and companies. A B2B executive can learn a lot by looking at consumer products companies, and vice-versa. Old ideas and approaches from other industries can become very innovative and fresh when applied within your own company.
We encourage our clients to constantly learn by wandering around. We encourage exec's to look at very different industries, companies with different business models. Don't just look for ideas within your company, competition, or industry. Look outside to get a fresh view.

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