Are you in active in your industry’s trade organizations? Have you frowned upon business groups with members in unrelated industries?
We often hear from folks after exposing them to a successful strategy in a different industry the technique “won’t work in my industry.”
Earlier today I read an interesting article in the latest edition of Wired Magazine about The Science of Failure and they had an fascinating story about a group of lab scientists that I think you’ll enjoy.
What do lab scientists have to do with your business? Read on…
In the article, author Jonah Lehrer shares:
When we look at a problem from the outside, we’re more likely to notice what doesn’t work. Instead of suppressing the unexpected, shunting it aside with our “Oh shit!” circuit and Delete key, we can take the mistake seriously. A new theory emerges from the ashes of our surprise.
In looking at scientific research, scientific researcher Kevin Dunbar noted that the scientific process is often viewed as a solo journey – the solitary scientist working to miraculous discoveries all by themselves. In reality, the biggest breakthroughs typically come from lab meetings, “those weekly sessions in which people publicly present their data.”
Dunbar observed that the skeptical (and sometimes heated) questions asked during a group session frequently triggered breakthroughs, as the scientists were forced to reconsider data they’d previously ignored. The new theory was a product of spontaneous conversation, not solitude; a single bracing query was enough to turn scientists into temporary outsiders, able to look anew at their own work.
As an entrepreneur, do you often find that you’re working alone, trying to take your business to the next level and nobody can really relate to what you’re trying to do? That is, until you go to your industry trade meetings, or speak with those in your same field.
But is keeping the conversation in your own field really beneficial?
Back to the labs…
But not every lab meeting was equally effective. Dunbar tells the story of two labs that both ran into the same experimental problem: The proteins they were trying to measure were sticking to a filter, making it impossible to analyze the data. “One of the labs was full of people from different backgrounds,” Dunbar says. “They had biochemists and molecular biologists and geneticists and students in medical school.” The other lab, in contrast, was made up of E. coli experts. “They knew more about E. coli than anyone else, but that was what they knew,” he says. Dunbar watched how each of these labs dealt with their protein problem. The E. coli group took a brute-force approach, spending several weeks methodically testing various fixes. “It was extremely inefficient,” Dunbar says. “They eventually solved it, but they wasted a lot of valuable time.”
Sounds like an industry trade meeting…
The diverse lab, in contrast, mulled the problem at a group meeting. None of the scientists were protein experts, so they began a wide-ranging discussion of possible solutions. At first, the conversation seemed rather useless. But then, as the chemists traded ideas with the biologists and the biologists bounced ideas off the med students, potential answers began to emerge. “After another 10 minutes of talking, the protein problem was solved,” Dunbar says. “They made it look easy.”
Now THAT sounds more like a mastermind meeting.
When Dunbar reviewed the transcripts of the meeting, he found that the intellectual mix generated a distinct type of interaction in which the scientists were forced to rely on metaphors and analogies to express themselves. (That’s because, unlike the E. coli group, the second lab lacked a specialized language that everyone could understand.) These abstractions proved essential for problem-solving, as they encouraged the scientists to reconsider their assumptions. Having to explain the problem to someone else forced them to think, if only for a moment, like an intellectual on the margins, filled with self-skepticism.
This is why other people are so helpful: They shock us out of our cognitive box. “I saw this happen all the time,” Dunbar says. “A scientist would be trying to describe their approach, and they’d be getting a little defensive, and then they’d get this quizzical look on their face. It was like they’d finally understood what was important.”
So what are YOU doing to mix yourself up with experts and like-minded entrepreneurs in OTHER industries besides your own? Who do you bounce your ideas off of?
Many of the greatest minds of our time and of generations past were in Masterminds, and many of today’s business leaders are, too.
It’s where we share our ideas, get real feedback about our ideas, and most importantly find out what’s working in unrelated industries that we can use in our business right away with the same or better success.