It’s a mistake to surround yourself with people who are just like you.
Creativity Tip Number 1: It’s a mistake to surround yourself with people who are just like you. Why? Because they’ll usually come up with ideas that are just like yours.
Creative people and companies make a concerted effort to look outside their normal circle of contact, so they can cross-pollinate their own ideas with insights and ideas from other people, departments, eras or industries.
Thousands of good ideas have been discovered simply because someone was curious enough to poke around in a seemingly unrelated industry or discipline. In his best-selling book, “A Whack on the Side of the Head,” Roger von Oech relates that legendary football coach Knute Rockne got the idea for his “four horseman” backfield while watching a burlesque chorus routine.
U.S. military designers borrowed from the cubist art of Pablo Picasso to create more effective camouflage patterns.
Dan Bricklin took the “spreadsheet” concept from accounting and turned it into VisiCalc, the program that launched the microcomputer software industry.
If you want to be more creative, jump out of your comfort zone every chance you get. Throw off that tired old blanket and replace it with a crazy quilt of interesting experiences, people from different educational backgrounds, departments, colors, and disciplines. If you’re in sales, take a designer to lunch; if you’re in accounting, take an artist to lunch. Trade minds; challenge each other’s assumptions; check each other for blind spots.
To stimulate your team or company, make it a policy to invite experts from other fields or disciplines to come in and talk to your colleagues and employees about solutions or shared problems. Arrange for your team to tour companies in other industries. Innovative companies such as Ben & Jerry’s, Zappos and Google open their doors for outsiders to take a peek at their renowned cultures of innovation. Some leadership teams have taken field trips to the battlefields of Gettysburg to help them gain a new perspective on what happens during crisis. The more divergent your sources and surroundings become, the more original your ideas will be.
There is an old saying: “In a company where everyone thinks alike, no one thinks very much.” That’s why companies that celebrate and hire diversity are typically among the most innovative in their fields. When people of different backgrounds, colors, genders and perspectives, come to work together, there is friction, yes. But also, sparks, fire, light and—eventually—brilliance.
- Jump out of that comfort rut.
- Welcome and celebrate diversity.
- Seek harmony, but not uniformity.