Creative thinking, after all, is the main reason our standard of living has increased eightfold in the past 150 years. As more and more organizations become labs for innovation, those who lead will be the ones who create the most original products and services.
Take these steps to develop a unique way of seeing things and to maintain your creative momentum:
- Shield yourself from hackneyed ideas. Nash didn’t read: not because he didn’t want to learn but because he wanted to protect his own vision from the conventional wisdom. The equivalent act today: not watching television.
- Stay primed for inspiration. Nash challenged famous lecturers, carrying a clipboard to take notes. (Some of his best ideas came from trying to decipher his own handwriting well enough to reconstruct arguments.)
- Think of your field as a competitive sport. Nash certainly saw mathematics that way. He skipped classes but never missed afternoon tea because that’s where graduate students and professors played games, traded insults and ranked each other. He wasn’t an outstanding chess player but, being unusually aggressive, he destroyed his opponents psychologically. His favorite put-downs: “Trivial” and “Hacker.”
- Look for big, unsolved problems. Nash once took up a century-old mathematical problem on a dare. Although the experts predicted a miserable failure, Nash won the dare by simplifying the problem and then adopting what seemed to be a bizarre strategy. It wasn’t bizarre; it was just that no one had ever done it before.