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Are dumb rules getting in the way of real innovation in your organization? Of course they are! Here is a simple tip to expand your thinking.
Start by considering a belief or a thought about your business that you feel very strongly about. For example:
• We can't raise prices. Our customers won't go for that.
• We can't renegotiate our deal with our suppliers.
• We can’t change this process; we’ve always done it that way.
• That’s the way our industry does it.
These kinds of statements often get said in meetings when a new idea or way of doing business is introduced. And if people don’t actually verbalize those thoughts, you know they’re thinking about them. When nobody challenges these thoughts, they become unspoken “rules.” And with rules like these, real innovation becomes all but impossible.
The next time this happens, I want you to pause for a moment and think about one of your rules. Then ask yourself what you are absolutely, positively sure is so about that rule. What assumptions do you have about whatever the new idea is? What are you assuming to be true perhaps because it actually was once upon a time (before things changed significantly)? Then jot down all those rules you have about a particular challenge or opportunity.
Notice that almost all your rules are negative. They typically are focused on what you can’t do, not what you can. So now I want you to pause for a moment and ask yourself one simple question: What if I’m wrong?
I'm sure you're not wrong, but what if you were? What else might you see? Are there other possibilities? For example, does your competitor see it differently? What if you knew nothing about your sector or how things are always done in your business? If you had to prove yourself wrong, what other data might you consider? Are these really still the rules you have to follow? What if you did it differently?
I'm not saying you can do any of these things. Maybe you can and maybe you can’t. But simply by asking your brain the 'what if?' question and suspending the need to prove yourself right, you'll be amazed at what else you might see.
When you ask 'what if?' questions, your brain immediately goes to work on answering them — even when you don't know it's working on it. It starts to consider pieces and parts and looks for what seem to be disparate pieces of data. Then it puts them together and tries to answer those questions for you.
Innovation is all about possibility, not outdated rules and limitations. Once you open up to considering other data, it starts to reform some of your rules and helps to create new assumptions and meanings that will serve you more effectively. So if you’re talking about the same old problem or challenge over and over again, expose and then question a few rules you may not even be conscious you have. It feels good, and it opens your brain to possibilities and alternatives that might just help you be even more successful!