What makes an innovator? What makes an entrepreneur? The underlying thought process of people who are considered innovators are the same: innovation is pushing boundaries. Innovation is questioning fundamental truths and showing that the commonly accepted truth is not the case. For those entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and anyone else looking to create, there is one question that helps push the envelope.
What do people agree merely by convention, and what is the truth? – Peter Thiel
Question Common Wisdom
Common wisdom is the unwritten law that binds all of us. As humans, we’re social creatures that rely on each other. Through common wisdom, we’re passed generations of knowledge. It would be impossible to consciously think through every decision that falls upon us on a daily basis. To ensure we don’t pass out from exhaustion, our minds build shortcuts based off our life experiences that allow us to get on with our day-to-day lives. This behavior that saves our consciousness also inhibits it. We take common wisdom, some never tested, and believe them as truth just because others also believe it is so. To innovate, we must question what we believe is true.
Conflict Is Good
Growing up in a power distance Asian culture, I learned that avoiding conflict allowed me to fly under the radar unnoticed. Although this mindset helped me sail smoothly in my upbringing, it severely limited me in my interactions outside of the family. For example, I would allow others with a more confident voice to run me over in school and at work – even when I had facts to prove I was correct. I had to teach myself how to embrace conflict. I’m not talking about the yell at whomever you’re talking to as loud as possible type of conflict. I’m refering to the conflict that forces you to question the status quo and play the devil’s advocate from time to time. It’s easy to give into social pressure or hide behind groupthink, but it’s tough to stand up for what you believe in the face of doubt. Historically, the Ben Franklins and Edisons of history were people that challenged the status quo.
Innovators Take The Next Step
When everyone is against your idea, it’s tough to see the path to execution. Take a breath and don’t get overwhelmed. Instead of focusing on how ambiguous or complicated the big picture is, just find the next step and take it. The difference between the forgotten philosophers of the past and the great people of history was: action.
Now that you’re thinking out of the box, what’s your next step?
Also published on Medium.