Creativity and innovation, or chaos and problems
Hey, it’s Shane! Over the next few days I’ll be sending a short email mini-series with insights into how you can transform your work (or team’s work) at this crazy time we’re going through. While I believe this will help everybody, it’ll be especially useful to those who are working remotely or managing remote teams!
IF YOU’VE BEEN following my explorations or have taken one of my quizzes, you’re probably aware that my work on Intellectual Humility and Cognitive Diversity are products of years of research based on Dream Teams.
I want to give you a sneak peek behind the scenes of how that book came about—and how the story behind it can help YOU right now.
When I started working on it, I never dreamed that this book would end up:
In the hands of chairmen of Fortune 10 companies and chiefs of staff of Senators;
Being publicly praised by Steve Jobs’s CEO coach; and
Turn into invitations to train leaders around the world—from Sao Paulo to Google HQ.
I would have been quite skeptical if you’d have told me that.
In the beginning, it was a simple exploration. I wanted to understand team dynamics:
Why do humans interact in the confusing ways we so often do—and why does that whole “synergy” thing so rarely happen when people work together?
I wasn’t even sure I was working on a book for a long time when I began exploring these concepts.
Initially, I started obsessing over a jumble of strange ideas that had been tickling my brain for some time:
I’d been thinking a lot about the phenomena that occur when outsiders enter a new field—like when physicist Freeman Dyson got into game theory and solved the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Or when NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson invented the Super Soaker.
I was curious about the patterns between that sort of thing and when, say, immigrants move to a new city (resulting in more patents being produced in that city, but also higher reports of fear among residents).
I’d been thinking about the paradox between wanting to build a diverse and inclusive company—and wanting to have unity and shared values in a company.
I’d been thinking about how breakthrough innovation was often a product of friction, conflict, and rivalry.
Was there a unifying principle to all these things? Was there an umbrella under which some of these fit? I didn’t see it at first. I was exploring all of these separately. Maybe for articles, maybe just to talk about at the bar.
I didn’t quite know yet.
But after a fair amount of research, I concluded that there was something universal to the idea of “The Outsider Advantage.” I started researching and casually bringing up this concept in conversation with friends—just exploring it, prodding it, playing with it.
The question was, “Why does innovation so often coincide with outsiders entering a new field—or geography? And what makes the difference between outsiders leading to problems, and outsiders leading to innovation?”
The answer to the question soon became obvious:
It’s because when different ways of thinking combine, we get creativity and innovation—or chaos and problems.
And outsiders bring different ways of thinking with them.
The thing that made the difference between innovation and chaos had to be the way that we tap into the thinking of those outsiders.
In my next email, I’m going to share some of the interesting research I did when following up on this idea—including a study I found that shows how workers are more likely to perform poorly when managers do one specific thing…
Find out what that one thing is in my next note!
Great! Then look for my next message tomorrow. :)