Thinking like a Beginner/Outsider/Child

To be innovative and creative in a changing world is to think not like an expert, but like a beginner or outsider, ie an attitude that challenges everything like a child!!!!

"...members of one age group need little pressure to assume the creative stance - young children before the major formal schooling.....The minds of five-year-olds represents in one sense, the height of creative powers..."

Howard Gardner, 2006a

In the Buddhist philosophy, a beginner's mind involves a willingness to step back from prior knowledge and existing conventions in order to start anew and to cultivate new options. Furthermore, it allows an open attitude, ie

"... in a beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few..."

Roderick Gilkey et al, 2007

Beginners ask embarrassing questions as they don't know rules and rationales for why things are done. And that's precisely what makes them so valuable. They have open minds and are free of pre-conceived notions. They will notice the obvious, and they don't know what things can't be done. While experts are adept at telling you why something will not work, beginners have the advantage of seeing only possibilities and opportunities. As you get used to something, you lose the beginner's mind and what stands out at the beginning fades to the background with experience, ie it becomes second nature and you take it for granted

Appointing an outsider to a senior management position has the advantage of a beginner's mindset. By hiring somebody from within the organisation, you are hiring the past. Insiders, "born and bred" within the corporate culture, are anything but beginners. They are generally working from the old assumptions and business practices they know so well and have a vested interest in continuing to work that way. After all, those are the things that got them to the top. Though they may preach change, they are usually reluctant to break-up the corporate ship. The only effective agent of change and innovation is someone who doesn't come with all the history and trappings of the enterprise. One reason outsiders are better at change according to John Kotter:

"...the intuitive ability to continually view problems in fresh ways and to identify ineffective operating practices and traditions..."

as quoted by Robert Kriegel et al, 1996

Sony looks for people who are "neyaki", ie

- optimistic

- open-minded

- have a wide range of interests

Sony feels that the best results come from people who have moved around among product groups and like to try their hand at technologies they haven't formally studied

· · Outsiders will see problems that have been covered up inadvertently and opportunities that were passing the organisation by

Perceptional learning

Advanced computing produces waves of abstract digital data that can be hard to interpret, ie it is hard to detect meaningful patterns in any intuitive way. To extract some order from this chaos, analysts need to continually reimagine the ways in which they can represent their data.

Bringing an outsider in can help people look at the data in a different way; he/she can push them outside the zone of comfort and make them aware of the data in new ways, ie find new patterns and meanings. Information is all there and ever increasing, ie analysts are drowning in data.

Furthermore, training to enhance specific visual skills, using computer-game-like modules that require split-second decisions, can help people extract meaningful patterns, information, etc instantaneously.

Perceptional learning is an elementary skill that children possess and adults have lost.

"... It's what we use as children to make distinction between similar looking letters, like U and V, long before we can read. It's the skill needed to distinguish an A sharp from B flat (the notation and the note), or between friendly insurgents and hostiles in a fast paced-video game. By the time we move onto sentences and melodies and more celebral games - "chunking" the information into larger blocks - we've forgotten how hard it was to learn all those subtle distinctions in the first place..."

Benedict Carey

Perpetual skills can be re-learnt and can become automatic, ie no thinking is involved. It is self-regulatory, ie modifications occur without need for external reinforcement. It is stimulus-oriented; with the goal of extracting and reducing the information needed, ie can learn to notice abnormalities, patterns, subtle differences very quickly like snap judgements, where people know what they are looking at without having to explain why. People are able to build a reliable catalogue of digital patterns that provide meaningful clues to the underlying reality

"...It's about frameworks of recognition - how to choose to look, rather than what you're trying to see..."

Daniel Kohn as quoted by Benedict Carey, 2015

(sources: Robert Kriegel et al, 1996; Roderick Gilkey et al, 2007; Benedict Carey, 2015)


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