Where did Bob Kearns pull this idea from?
“Why can’t the windshield wiper blink?” thought Kearns, comparing the wiper blades to human eyelids. Most of the time, our eyes are open – there is no need to blink for the same duration of time that we have our eyes open, and the same is true for vehicles during rain. By pulling the concept of blinking from nature into the automotive realm, Kearns had transferred inspiration “between boxes.” Remember how we are supposed to “think outside of the box”? This is exactly what that adage means: pulling inspiration from a different box than the box were the problem exists.
This is why fresh perspectives can be critical
When a person is exposed to a certain set of norms and standards, their ideas will reflect and draw from this environment. For example, we know that “activist investors” are a certain group of people who invest into a failing business with the aim of bringing new insight and solutions to the company’s plight. The business needs this outside force because the leadership has been in the same corporate environment for so long that they are no longer capable of having an objective look at their operations and strategy. Simply put, they’ve lived in one box all their careers and that one box is all that they know. If solutions to problems their problems exist, these leaders will never know. Instead, finding these solutions will require a new leader who brings fresh experience from a different box (aka, the activist investor).
Just like Bob Kearns and activist investors, you can bring fresh insight, too
I want to challenge you and I to not simply think outside of “the box”, but also be willing to pull from as many boxes as possible. Everyone has a box that they live in, to one degree or another, and by using people as a resource to find fresh perspectives we can innovate on a much greater level. Remember that you don’t have to bring 100% of the fresh perspective to your problem – that’s what teams are for. Make a list of the skills, talents and boxes that your friends live in, then recruit them for help when you need a problem solved while also making yourself available to them.
Remember, Bob Kearns was not an auto company employee. But that didn’t stop him from innovating a breakthrough idea. The same goes for you: you may not have as much experience as some of the people deeply entrenched in an industry, but don’t let that stop you from bringing a fresh perspective to the table.
Seabrook, John (1993). The Flash of Genius. NewYorker.com. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1993/01/11/the-flash-of-genius