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The Incongruity of Training to Discover and the Act of Discovery(Part I)

My business contemplative life is lived about 1-2 weeks behind the actual calendar date.  Most ideas and interesting tidbits percolate in my head.  At some point, if inspiration strikes and Muse happens to be in the room, I draw interesting connections (well, they are interesting to at least me!) and that tends to take about 1-2 weeks.

So as my son was watching Tom and Jerry earlier this morning, I started to read a few emails I’ve saved for short uninterrupted moments.  And while re-reading Cosmo‘s (no, not the newstand version) article on the importance of dangerous ideas, the incongruity struck me: how often does some-one’s insight training framework actually impede the possibility of game changing discovery?

Summary of the Cosmo article if you don’t feel like reading it: Darwin set off on his voyage as a 22 year old Victorian who studied theology at Cambridge and planned to be a clergyman.  While on the voyage he the notion of Evolution struck.

“Evolution is a deceptively simple idea, not immediately obvious to the casual observer. But its effects are complex, and span millions of years. If geology can be summed up as pressure plus time, then evolution is basically genetics and environment plus time…  It was like suddenly recognizing a language you had always heard in the background but could never understand: it was the language of life itself, whispering its secrets to anyone who took the trouble to listen carefully.”

That last sentence is the one that connected the dots.

Often we are trained either formally through education, or informally through experiences, to pattern and templatize not only how we think about the world, but how to process and categorize new concepts.  It is a human intuition, one that our ancestors relied upon for survival (e.g. is that shadow lurking at the edge of the fire a hungry sabre tooth tiger or a rock?).  Need further proof?  Think about the proliferation of stereotypes as social patterns.

Thus the ability to re-pattern how we approach insight, new concepts, and ideas is critical.  The key is not to be stuck in a linear formulaic approach to problem solving, but rather use patterns of approach that help us break out of strict dogma that often guides how businesses approach new concepts, test ideas, and think about new markets.

John Kembel gave me a copy of “The Designful Company” which I plan to read this weekend.  Knowing John, the book should be rich not only in design centric thinking but also how this thinking can be widely used across multiple disciplines.

More later on The Designful Company, Darwin, and the importance of using precedence for consideration but not letting it dictate future thinking.