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Want to change your life? Start asking yourself “why” not “how” questions
When your to-do list is daunting, you spend most of your energy figuring out “how” to accomplish those tasks instead of asking “why” you should even be doing them in the first place. (Or, maybe that’s just me!) Perhaps this explains the appeal of Amanda Lang’s new book,
The Power of Why: Simple Questions That Lead to Success. Lang, senior business correspondent for
CBC News and co-host of
The Lang & O’Leary Exchange, explores the holy grail of innovation. She distills the latest research on the subject, but it’s the interviews with innovators—everyone from the founder of the Four Seasons hotel chain to the woman behind the Prairie Girl Bakery cupcake chain—that are most compelling. As Lang writes in her conclusion, the key ingredient is curiosity. “If you’re able to keep it alive, stoke it and then follow it where it takes you, you will find success—however you measure it.”
Here are the top 10 curiosity-inducing ideas I found in Lang’s book.
TOP 10 INNOVATIVE STRATEGIES
1. Managers ask “how” questions. Innovators ask “why” or “why not?”
2. If you’re not prepared to be wrong—or to fail—you’ll never create anything original. Innovative thinkers view failure as an opportunity to find out what doesn’t work.
3. Be willing to forget what you think you know. Lang calls it the “control-alt-delete” mindset. Bye-bye, status quo.
4. Cynicism and innovation don’t mix. Give yourself permission to dream.
5. Success isn’t linear. Be prepared to switch tracks.
6. Group brainstorming isn’t the best way to dream up innovative ideas. Lang says that social scientists call this the persistent “illusion of group efficiency.” Research has shown that individuals tend to come up with more abstract, fresh ideas on their own. Why?
1. Intellectual laziness: Why work when there are others to carry the load?
2. Self-censorship: You’re afraid to say something in case the group thinks it’s a stupid idea.
3. Politeness: The unspoken rule is that you’re not supposed to question anyone’s ideas—even if you know they’re stupid!
4. Harmony: Groups move toward consensus rather than exploring ideas that rock the boat.
5. Time lapse: “The biggest obstacle to group success is even more basic: We have to take turns,” writes Lang. “Apparently, our ideas don’t develop the same way if instead of blurting them out we have to keep track of what everyone else is saying and wait patiently for a break in the conversation.”
7. Travelling inspires creativity and curiosity. Being able to understand what it’s like to be an outsider is the ideal mindset in which to spark innovation. Note to self: Book vacation immediately!
8. To achieve the “outsider” innovation advantage, try to think of problems or challenges as if they’re occurring in the future or to someone else.
9. Competition sparks innovation—provided that the tension is over ideas and not position or power.
10. Innovation—like love—is in the eye of the beholder. In other words, you may think your idea is brilliant, but if your customers or family think otherwise, it’s irrelevant. So… look at your "to do" list today and starting asking why!