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?
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.