The Heart of Innovation: The Value of Confusion

 

I feel so much better, now – I thought CONFUSION was a BAD thing….not so, maybe?

 

 
Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at December 20, 2012 01:44 AM
 

December 20, 2012


The Value of Confusioniphone-confused.jpg

Are you confused about how to proceed with your hottest new idea or project? If so, take heart! Confusion is not always a bad thing. In fact, it’s often a necessary part of the creative process.

The weirdness enters when you start judging yourself for being confused. Then, instead of benefiting from this normal stage of “not knowing” you end up in endless rounds of self-talk, procrastination, and worry.

What IS confusion, really?

Technically speaking, it’s a state of mind in which the elements you are dealing with appear to be indiscriminately mixed, out of whack, or unable to be interpreted to your satisfaction.

Everyone from Einstein to Mickey Mouse has had this experience. It comes with the territory of trying to innovate.

Most of us, unfortunately, have a hard time acknowledging it.

“Not knowing” has become a euphemism for “ignorance”. And so begins our curious routine of appearing to know and giving bogus answers — to ourselves and others — in a pitiful attempt to mask our confusion and maintain a sense of control, brilliance, and selfhood.

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Our discomfort with not knowing prevents us from mining the value of this potentially fertile time of dislocation.

Picasso understood. “The act of creation,” he said, “is first of all an act of destruction.”

Great breakthroughs often emerge after times of dissolution, chaos, and confusion.

Wasn’t the universe itself created out of chaos?

llya Prigogine, a leading brain researcher, describes this phenomenon as the “Theory of Dissipative Structures”. Simply put, when things fall apart, they eventually reorganize themselves on a higher level (if they don’t first become extinct).

And while this transition stage certainly looks and feels like confusion, what’s really happening is that the old structures are giving way to the new.

Lao Tzu, one of China’s most revered sages, knew all about this:

lao-tzu.jpg

“I am a fool, oh yes, I am confused.
Other men are clear and bright.
But I alone am dim and weak.
Other men are sharp and clever,
But I alone am dull and stupid.
Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea,
Without direction, like the restless wind.”

Somehow, he knew that things needed to be a little mixed up for there to be space for something new to enter his life. He knew that sometimes it was wisest just to let life unfold — and that any knee-jerk attempt to clear up what he perceived to be confusion would only leave him with his old habits, patterns, and routines.

There is no need to fight confusion. Let it be.

It’s a stage we must pass through on the road to creation. Fighting confusion only makes it worse — like trying to clean a dirty pond by poking at it with a stick.

And, besides, even while our conscious mind is telling us we’re confused, our subconscious mind is processing a mile a minute to come up with some amazing solutions. In the shower. While we’re exercising. Even in our dreams.

Look at it this way…

First, we refuse (to have our status quo threatened). Then, we getconfused (trying to sort out all the new input). Then, we try todiffuse the process (by regressing or denying.) Eventually, we getinfused (inundated by new insights). And, finally, we get fused(connecting with previously unrelated elements to form a new and unified whole).

Your next step?

Allow confusion to be what it is — the catalyst for new and more elegant outcomes.

And if you really can’t stand the confusion, here are seven simple things you can do to go beyond it:

1. Take a break from the problem at hand
2. Identify what’s confusing you. Name it.
3. Talk about your confusion with friends
4. Seek out missing information
5. Redefine your problem, starting with the words “How can I?”
6. Pay attention to your dreams and other clues bubbling up from your subconscious
7. Maintain a longer term perspective (“this too shall pass”)

Idea Champions

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5 Ways to Begin Designing Your Life in 2013

week 49 - Plans

week 49 – Plans (Photo credit: Sweet Dreamz Design)

5 Ways to Begin Designing Your Life in 2013
Tim Brown December 20, 2012

Great designers don’t just do design, they live design. Like them, we can learn how to practice design thinking principles both at work and at home.

As you start designing your life in 2013, here are five ways to begin:

1. Be optimistic, collaborative, and generative.
There’s something wonderfully gratifying about creating something new, whether it’s an award-winning design or a home-cooked meal.

2. Think of life as a prototype.
Conduct experiments, make discoveries, change as needed. Any process can be re-examined and tweaked. Look for opportunities to turn a process into a project with a tangible outcome.

3. Don’t ask “what?” ask “why?”
Instead of accepting a given constraint, ask whether this is the right problem to be solving.

4. Demand divergent options.
Don’t settle for the first good idea that comes to mind or seize on the first promising solution presented to you. Explore divergent options—and then set a deadline so you know when to move on.

5. Once a day, deeply observe the ordinary.
Make it a rule that at least once a day you will stop and take a second look at some ordinary situation that you would normally look at only once (or not at all). Get out in the world and be inspired by people.

Happy designing!

(Artwork by Martin Kay / IDEO)

How to Use Your Time Wisely by Prioritizing Your Goals | Entrepreneur.com

How to Use Your Time Wisely by Prioritizing Your Goals

BY  | October 19, 2012|
How to Use Your Time Wisely by Prioritizing Your Goals

image credit: Shutterstock

In his bookExtreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, author Robert Pozen reveals his secrets and strategies for productivity and high performance, focusing on results produced rather than simply hours worked. In this edited excerpt, Pozen lays out six steps to analyze whether your efforts are supporting your most critical business goals and objectives.

Many executives race from meeting to meeting or crisis to crisis without giving much thought to the rationale for their hectic schedules. They spend too little time on activities that support their highest goals and often report a serious mismatch between priorities and time allocations.

Think carefully about why you are engaging in any activity and what you expect to get out of it. Establish your highest-ranking goals and determine whether your schedule is consistent with this ranking. This process has six steps:

1. Write everything down. Include the routine tasks that you have to do daily or weekly and longer-term projects assigned to you.But you can only tread water if you spend all your time responding to crises and tasks assigned by others. To get ahead, you also must think about what you want to do.

These may be long-term goals, such as advancing your career, or short-term goals, like developing a new skill. Add these aspirations for your work to your list. Be as broad as possible; capture all your tasks and goals.

Related: When ‘Just Do It’ Just Doesn’t Do It: Maximizing Interruptions As They Happen

2. Organize by time horizon. Divide your list into three time categories:

  • Career aims: Long-term goals over at least five years.
  • Objectives: Professional goals over the next three months to two years.
  • Targets: Action steps that should guide your work on a weekly or daily basis–or example, finishing one part of a larger project.

Make sure that each objective has one or two associated targets. If any lacks a target, think hard about the next actionable step you can take to advance that objective, and then add it to your list of targets.

3. Rank your objectives. Think about what you want to do, what you’re good at, and what the world needs from you. These are distinctly different — and there may be some conflict among them.Determining what you want to do is critical to your ranking decisions. For instance, if you have a burning desire to invent your company’s newest product, you should rank that objective higher.

Then, ask yourself, “What am I better at doing than others? Which objectives play to my strengths?” Rank an objective higher if you have a comparative advantage in accomplishing it because of your personality or skills.

Lastly, ask what the world needs from you. You can’t be fully productive by looking only at the supply side. You must also consider the demand side — what the world, your organization, or your boss needs most from you.

Write down two or three top objectives for your organization and think about the metric used to evaluate performance. Ask yourself what one change you could make to help achieve success: more time visiting clients? Recruiting a talented professional to replace a retiring employee?

4. Rank your targets. Your targets, or action steps, will typically fall into one of two categories: enabling targets, which help you accomplish your objectives, and assigned targets, which are given to you. First decide which targets belong in which category and then try to rank them.

For example, finishing my book was a very high objective for me, so writing the first draft of a chapter tended to be my highest-ranked enabling target. An enabling target also can further an objective in more subtle ways. Suppose that you’ve been told that you’ll be assigned a major project (i.e., an objective) that will require your full attention. So, you want to get many of your small tasks out of the way. Completing these lower-priority enabling targets supports your new objective by clearing away distractions.

Related: 4 Ways to Discover Your Strengths

List and rank your enabling targets based on the objective’s importance and how effectively the enabling target furthers it. Assigned targets are daily and weekly chores that often seem unrelated to your bigger picture. They are very different than those that support your objectives. Although assigned targets are immediate and concrete, that doesn’t mean they are important enough to consume your schedule. Consider them low priority and spend as little time on them as possible.

5. Estimate how you spend your time. Once you’ve ranked your objectives and targets, determine how effectively your schedule matches your high-priority goals. Take out your calendar and answer these six questions:

  • How many hours do you spend at work vs. other activities?
  • What are the three main work activities on which you spend the most time?
  • How many hours each week do you spend on meetings, forms or reports, and responding to emails?
  • Will your weekly schedule be similar a year from now?
  • What will be your three main activities during the next year, and will they change?
  • How will you measure success and failure over the next year?
  • Compare your allocations of time with your ranked list of objectives and targets. What percentage of your time do you spend on activities that help you meet your highest objectives and targets? How much time do you spend on lower-ranking items?

6. Address the mismatch. You’ll likely find that you are spending no more than half your time on your highest priorities. Some professionals haven’t carefully thought about their objectives and targets, and so often neglect an important goal — until it becomes a crisis, demanding their full time and effort.

Related: 5 Tech Time Wasters and How to Avoid Them

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