The experience of thinking that we know how to do something, or that we know more than we really do about a topic is almost universal. How often have you started to read something, or to listen to a teacher, or speaker, and said to yourself “I already know that”? However, the sense that we already know can have the effect of limiting our creativity and problem solving skills in a variety of ways and in a variety of contexts.
Likewise, when we jump to the conclusion that “I already know that,” we shut off learning and tend to act on the problem or situation in the same old way which may not be the optimal solution within our skills and abilities.
In short, that little voice that says “I know that” or “This is how I do that” may be a serious limitation to your growth, the quality of your life and to your ability to learn and apply new skills and solutions. It is a growth and creativity killer.
The martial arts has long dealt with the I know it problem by teaching how to achieve the “Beginner’s Mind.” By attaining the beginner’s mind, the student – and the master – no longer assume that the thing must be done in a particular way. The beginner student knows that he or she doesn’t know and is, as a result, open to all kinds of wild, fun, profitable, and effective solutions.
By attaining the open mind of the beginner, you can become more creative, learn more faster, and become more willing to apply new solutions and even to fail as a way of learning what really works best.
As I have said before, there is a large body of literature in the areas of business, creativity, leadership, and self improvement that tells us what to do – achieve the beginner’s mind – but fails to tell us how to do it.
But, I will not leave you in that state. There are in fact specific exercises designed to help you to achieve the state of the beginner’s mind that opens you to greater creativity, the ability to learn and do faster than you ever thought possible.
Here are just three – but there are thousands:
1. Use Lateral Thinking – Edward DeBono made the concept of lateral thinking popular in a series of books on the topic which are well worth the read.
In essence, you examine the problem, situation, information and solutions from a variety of perspectives rather than just using the same old methodology that you have always used before. So, for example, you might select a random word from an article, book, newspaper or blog. Then, you consider how you would solve a problem, or examine an issue, in relation to that word or concept.
Example: You have a cash flow problem in business. You open a favorite book and randomly point to a word on any page. The word is “faster.”
The process is then to say how many ways can we collect money faster from our customers?
How much more can we charge of we do XYZ faster?
What would make clients happily pay us much more and even faster?
You get the idea.
2. Pretend that you have no expertise and act “AS IF” you are a neophyte. If you didn’t know what you know how would you act, think, solve the problem?
For more information on my Ideas For Free (TM) creativity model read my book: The Language of Parenting: Building Great Family Relationships At All Ages
3. Save your first Idea. Come back to it later. Many people report to me that their first instinctive reaction is almost always the best. That may hold true, but it may also be that we really don’t give our creative abilities full credit and that we jump to the first solution that comes to mind and believe it’s the best and consequently don’t really try very hard or go very much further in the process.
One solution is to write it down and put it away. If it is your best you can still select it later. But, then say if we cannot do that, or that idea hadn’t occurred to me what other ways might I do this? How would I do this if I was young, silly, and impetuous?
Trust me, the state of the “beginner’s Mind” is powerful. You get more ideas. You avoid limitations that are self imposed. You are more willing to act, fail and succeed in ways that you never even thought of.
Try it and let me know. The first three emails or comments get a copy of The Richest Man in Babylon from me as a reward for trying it.
Photo Credit: Spirit-Fire