Putting the “new” into the New Year

January 6, 2011 · by Alvarez Porter Group · Filed Under Choices, Previous · Leave a Comment

It’s a new year: time for meeting the future with fresh eyes and fresh ideas.   If history has taught us anything, it is not to be constrained by what history teaches us.  The future will be made by those who believe they can do it.  Succeeding in the current environment, however, will require new ideas.  Here are a few strategies to get the juices flowing:

  1. Ask new questions – Instead of looking for new answers, try looking for new questions.    The old expression, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ also works the other way:  ‘if it’s broke, don’t keep using it.’  Instead of planning to do more of the same, ask, ‘what new directions show promise?’  ‘what is this moment calling for us to be?’ and ‘what are we passionate about?’  When we explore generative, open ended questions and follow them up with “yes, and…” we give space for new ideas to percolate up.
  2. Discover what we don’t know we don’t know – as individuals and as organizations we tend to focus on what happened yesterday or what is already happening today.  To find the “new” we need to focus on what is emerging and even what’s ahead that we don’t necessarily see.    Ways to illuminate these new areas include seeing our every day reality from someone else’s perspective, gathering data on trends and finding out what our allies and enemies are planning.  And then use what we learn to rethink what’s possible.
  3. Listen to diverse voices – the newest members of the organization, the outsiders, the artists, the critics – when we listen to people who see the world differently than we do, we will add dimensions and ideas we never knew were possible.  Generations view the future very differently.  What are the under 30 folks in your organization doing and thinking about?  What individuals or groups would like to be more engaged? What’s holding them back?   It is in the contrasts and convergences across differences that new approaches and new energy can be found.
  4. Take a shower – in recent years, neuroscience has been finding that breakthrough ideas don’t actually come out of group brainstorming.  In fact, most of us share ideas in groups that we have already been thinking about.   New ideas, according to the science, usually come when we are alone.  We’ve all had great insights while taking a shower or taking a walk.  That is because we are relaxed and able to access the creative centers of the brain.  The problem is that insights are fleeting and change is hard.  So if you are interested in getting the “new” back into the New Year, listen to the scientists and take a notebook into the shower!
  5. Nurture the “new”. Innovation requires time and attention if it is to take root.   Otto Scharmer, author of Theory U, talks about the importance of suspending judgment, resisting cynicism, and controlling fear as we bring something new into organizational life.  At the same time, innovators need to welcome criticism and engage resistance as key sources of information as their idea hits reality.   And new ideas need to be piloted and evaluated free of judgment and the fear of failure – so that honest assessments and creative solutions can be found.

Si se puede. Doing something new is fun and energizing, but it is also risky.  It calls on us to first let go [of what we know, what we believe, what we’re afraid of] and then let come [what we don’t understand and can’t control].  Social change has always been hard.  As Allison decided when organizing unions in the American South, ‘it doesn’t take a genius to predict failure; it takes a genius to find a way to win.”  It’s a new year.  Let’s unleash the genius within us and our organizations and be about the “new”.  Why not now?


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