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3 ways common sense gets in the way of innovation. By Ben Parkinson

The best TED Talks for a FreshBiz mindset discussed

A culture where innovation and creative problem-solving thrive: It’s the Holy Grail for many organisations. We know that in today’s world we need it, we even think we’d quite enjoy having it- so why is it so hard to actually achieve it?

As Ken Robinson describes so eloquently in his 2010 TED Talk, innovation requires that we challenge the things that we take for granted. We have to overcome (I love this phrase) the “tyranny of common sense”, the overwhelming but misguided instinct that we can’t possibly do things any other way than we have been doing. Unfortunately, holding on to certain received wisdoms means that our approach is often more suited to solving yesterday’s problems than today’s.

When it comes to creativity, there are a couple of pieces of unhelpful common sense which we find particularly difficult to let go. The first centres on our relationship to money and resources.

It seems sensible to assume that if you reward people financially for creative problem-solving, they will get better and faster at it. Wrong, says science. As Dan Pink points out, researchers have been trying to tell us for years that it just ain’t so. We need to leave intrinsic motivation intact for us to excel on complex tasks, and making money contingent on ideas keeps our thinking firmly in the proverbial box.

In the FreshBiz game, it’s fascinating to watch people exchange their habitual reverence for money for a more liberating view of all of the possibilities available to them. At first, most will focus on what they think they cannot do, because they don’t have enough cash. This tendency to focus on resources (or lack thereof) is one of the topics Tony Robbins covers in his fast-paced talk on human drivers. Once the focus shifts from resources to resourcefulness, the game really takes off, because the team have overcome a major barrier to their innovative potential.

Contributing to this barrier is a second common sense pitfall: Our belief in linearity. Most likely an inheritance from our industrial past, this is a real creativity killer.  As a player we tend to assume that if we start on the first square of the game and take a series of sequential steps, we will get where we need to be. First we need to acquire money, then we can move. But, says Ken Robinson, life is organic, not linear. In FreshBiz, this reality is reflected by the possibility of “quantum leaps”, which allow players to move at exponential speed towards their goal by completing a single non-linear action.

In most cases, in order to effect these quantum leaps, players need the support of others. This brings us to the third piece of limiting common sense: the expectation that the lone genius will save the day. Margaret Heffernan uses the analogy of “super chickens” to make the point that the most effective groups are in fact not those with exceptional single performers in them, but those with the highest level of social connectedness and a culture of helpfulness. If there’s one thing that becomes crystal clear when playing FreshBiz, it is that truth: It is almost impossible to win the game without leveraging social capital.

Heffernan emphasises that cultivating connectedness requires an investment of time spent together. What better way to use that time than playing a mind-shifting game of FreshBiz?

About the Author

Ben Parkinson is the commercial director and co-owner of Blue Hat Teambuilding, the innovative teambuilding specialists.

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