Before Apple, personal computers seemed like a stupid idea. eBay was founded by some people looking for a web-facing way to trade and sell parts of their PEZ collection. Getting Things Done is nothing more than practical wisdom, years old in content, reskinned to meet the needs of people’s current conditions. So, how did they come into existence and change our world?
Someone said, “I’m new here.”
New is the new Black
Experience is overrated at times. History is littered with roomfuls of stodgy men grumbling and clearing their throats and saying, “It can’t be done. That’s proposterous! We’ve done it this way for fifty years with moderate success.”
Shortly thereafter, the newcomer shows up and turns thinking on its side. There are really countless examples of this happening, but for whatever reason, I’m thinking mostly of web businesses. Netflix came along and stuck one in Blockbuster’s eye. Amazon told the big bookstores they were fine, but watch this! 37Signals came along and threw together a programming framework that made web development silly-easy.
But how do they do it? How does “new” end up equalling “super big success?”
New, but Thoughtful
When people enter a situation with eyes open to possibilities and paths that aren’t the pre-established thinking, it gives them a free pass. “You are new here. This is your first time seeing it. What’s your take?” This does not equal insight, nor wisdom, nor thoughtful consideration.
One needs to actually apply thinking to the new scenario to find the magic in “new.”
Perspective-changing is a skill, like any other. To see things with your “new” lens, start seeing your existing situations, the ones around you daily, with that viewpoint. Why are you typing on a keyboard? Is that easier than other ways to push information into a computer? When Xerox-PARC created the mouse, were they thinking about keyboards?
New Requires Anthropologists
Look at everything as if you’re an alien who’s just landed on this planet. Consider everything around you. Why do we live in one community and drive an hour to work somewhere else? Isn’t the work nearby just as necessary to be accomplished? What makes everyone choose to build websites for social community? Shouldn’t we gather in real-space?
Be wary of your cultural experiences as a distorter. I’m from the USA, and specifically New England. I was raised Catholic. I’m of Irish/French/Scottish descent. I am male. I’m moderately educated. These are all lenses to consider when talking about things. Have you every heard this expression: “In America, 100 years is a long time; in Europe, 100 miles is a long distance.” Think about the lens you bring to your considerations, and try as best as you can to correct for it.
Use your notepad. Write notes frequently about things that seem awkward or odd. Each one is a possibility. They all lead your brain towards larger realizations. They help you get up and above the in-line experience that others can’t shake. This brings you closer to new.
New Requires Checking Your Ego
The things people who see things with “new” eyes hear back when they discuss their vision is, “That will never work. That’s been tried. That’s done. That’s stupid.” Learn to press forward politely, and ask questions. “What would you do differently? Show me how it really is.” And then, take those comments in context. Is this just because the other person is stuck in the old framework? Or do they really have information that you hadn’t considered? Use it.
A great trick one of my bosses taught me was to bring something to the picnic, check my ego, and let people tear it apart. Especially good is when the something isn’t directly important to my needs or viewpoint of the “new” something. Meaning, I can let others correct and better my view of things that are in the “old” setting, freeing more mind share for the “new” things.
Everyone has ideas. Everyone is certain they know what would make a great new invention. The difference between people who are successful and people who know the names of those successful people is as simple as this: the people who bring change to the world do so by beginning. Start. Do something. It can be the wrong thing. Better if it is. Because you should be able to learn. Learn from the early failures. Turn them forward. Discard the negative feelings, and push it forward.
And when you’re done, share your something new with the world. We’re waiting.