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Aliens for Innovation

Earlier this year, I shared a few questions you can ask yourself or your team to spark innovation. These questions are great because they immediately help you find real problems to solve – to pinpoint where innovation is needed.

But they are only one place to start. And possibly not even the best place.

The problem is that some questions take you straight to logic and the real real world, when what’s often needed more is real imagining.

After all, if standing in uncertaintly, in the uncomfortable place of not-knowing, is imperative for creativity, then certainty and knowing (highly related to logic and the real world) kinda get in the way.

Sometimes, it can be best to start by letting go of everything you know and looking at your business, products, services and/or creations from a total blank – with no real-world references or logic holding you back.

So, how do you get to that blank, fresh, new eyes place?

Easy. Get in your spaceship, set a course for planet earth, land smack dab in the middle of society and take a look around.

In other words, look at the world from the perspective of an alien from outer space.

An alien from out space knows nothing about earth, and is curious and questioning. He or she draws conclusions only from observation – and with no experience on planet earth, and everything is open to multiple interpretations.

For example:

You might set your spaceship on warp drive and head to San Francisco. Upon landing, you get out and immediately notice something interesting:

Almost every being on this planet seems to be host to some kind of parasite, and is caring for that parasite continually and intimately.

Most of the time, the parasite is visible, but when it’s not, you can see that the beings are feeling for it a of the time – and if not’s in the first place they feel, they feel around in other places with a panicked energy.

From your observations, you wonder if the parasites are in some way essential for keeping the beings alive or are controlling the hosts. But you also notice that the parasites beep and buzz to get the being’s attention, seamingly for the purpose of interacting with them, and that the interaction draws out a whole range of reactions from the host – from laughing to intense focus to yelling.

You go on making all kinds of observations and interpreting them from your fresh alien eyes – and if you have a team of aliens, you each see things differently.

In the above example, you might be in the communications or mobile device industries, and you certainly can choose to put your alien attention on any sector, audience or thing you want to observe and be very focused in your exploration.

Or, you can simply go about your day and fall into the alien perspective at various times, making observations and drawing conclusions about a bunch of things and, later, applying your observations to the space in which you want to innovate.

The above example triggered me to imagine how great it would be if I could set my phone to sense when I’m interacting with other humans and hold all the beeps and buzzes until I’m through.

Good idea? Who knows. But I wouldn’t have even thought of that if I hadn’t seen the situation through my inner alien.

The bottom line is that asking, What would an alien from outer space see here? What interpretations might that alien draw given that he has no former knowledge and no context? is a direct path to the place of not knowing and can be a much more comfortable way to start getting comfortable with uncertainty, too.

No information, no preconceived ideas – nothing but your out-of-this-world imagination.

To getting blank in service of getting the big idea,

Susan B.

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