Feb
25

Shifting to a White Mindset

Once again I woke up this morning to a white world, with Chicago getting more snow overnight. That means I need to think differently now about people and plans and how I’m going to travel (as I hear a car spinning its wheels in the distance, desperate to leave a parking space). Suddenly the way I see the world has changed, and I have a new mindset that filters how I approach my life.

This time an outside force has caused me to shake up my mindset, but usually it’s hard to get unstuck and change how we’re seeing a problem or challenge. Creative people hold less tight to their mindsets, constantly seeking out alternative perspectives and foreign experiences–even those that cause discomfort–to keep themselves flexible and more able to adapt to change. Only by cultivating mindset shifts can companies and organizations make breakthrough innovations, like using Gore-Tex fabric for guitar strings and dental floss, or making money through clicks rather than a physical advertisement itself. The mindset of innovation is actually one that moves–that seeks out and considers other lenses all the time.

Trainers/consultants who attempt to teach breakthrough thinking skills like to use visual examples, like the two pictures here, that can play tricks on your perception. They illustrate the ways that your mind can get stuck in one way of seeing, even though there are equally valid alternative ways of seeing the elephant legs or square here. I prefer to offer up “mindset challenges”–puzzles or verbal stories that require you to shift your typical mindset in order to solve them. Here are three to challenge your mind, including one I previously shared when writing about Multiple Intelligence theory:

1. A great mathematician determined that half of eight can actually be zero. How is that possible?

2. A father and his son are out for a drive and get into a terrible accident. The father dies immediately but the son, seriously injured, gets rushed to the hospital emergency room. The surgeon comes in, takes a look at the boy, and says, “I can’t operate on him; he’s my son.” How is that possible?

3. Mary and Jonathan are lying dead in the middle of the kitchen floor in a puddle of water and broken glass. A nearby window is open with a blustery wind outside. What happened?
You might remember these from your games of childhood–and please share others in a comment if you have a good one. What they show, especially in a group where several people are unable to figure them out, is how easily we can get stuck in and unable to break a mindset. Together we can then explore ways to get unstuck by seeking alternatives, challenging assumptions and shifting intelligences. Those of us dealing with snow here Chicago probably get a little more practice at doing those things than you lucky (but perhaps less creative?) people in warmer climates…
1. In this case the answer can be found only when you shift from one intelligence to another, from mathematical to visual: Visually cut 8 in half.
2. Despite strides in women’s rights, this one still results in more than half of each group unable to figure it out, demonstrating biases we may not believe we have.
3. Since you didn’t have a whole lot to work with here, you have to be good at challenging some of your assumptions. Mary and Jonathan, it turns out, are fish whose bowl fell.
 
If you’d like more of these creative exercises–as well as other techniques and ice-breakers when facilitating a group–email me for more information about my new E-Book entitled TeamBreakers.
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  • In my previous life as an IT guy inside a large wireless telephone carrier, I remember being laughed at by the marketing staff because of a suggestion I made. As the data quant for our prepaid cellular platform, I knew that some of our anonymous prepaid accounts were being used by drug dealers. The usage on these accounts were insane, something like 2,000 minutes or more a month. Since there were virtually untraceable, there was no mistaking their purpose.

    So my suggestion was “why don’t we try marketing prepaid to drug dealers?” However, since it was a “no-no” to acknowledge that our phones were being used for illegal activities, they brushed my idea aside. Of course many years later they began marketing using music celebrities popular to those who might listen to “ganster-rap.” Thinking back I think your stuck mind-set explains their reaction perfectly. They were unable to step away from their preconceived notions to see that we could use aspects of a “criminal” culture to appeal to potential customers without actually admitting or suggesting that we have drug dealers as customers. All we had to do was orient a campaign around culture that might resonate with them.

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