Monday, December 31, 2007

perspective: “When everybody knows that something is so, it means that nobody knows nothin’.”

Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike - New York Times -- I've spent a good amount of my time over the years noodling over the concept of perspective, trying to see things differently in order to break out of the lockstep that stifles creativity, and progress. Here's a good article on zero-gravity thinking, asking basic questions, and intentionally leaving comfort zones in order to grow. Looking back on it, I got a lot of these analytical techniques from dead Jesuits, but many also from a still-living professor, Maurice Geracht, who specialized in the novel; there's more to Henry James than most people suspect.

Here's the lead-in and the link to a good, quick read:

IT’S a pickle of a paradox: As our knowledge and expertise increase, our creativity and ability to innovate tend to taper off. Why? Because the walls of the proverbial box in which we think are thickening along with our experience.

Andrew S. Grove, the co-founder of Intel, put it well in 2005 when he told an interviewer from Fortune, “When everybody knows that something is so, it means that nobody knows nothin’.” In other words, it becomes nearly impossible to look beyond what you know and think outside the box you’ve built around yourself.
This so-called curse of knowledge, a phrase used in a 1989 paper in The Journal of Political Economy, means that once you’ve become an expert in a particular subject, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what you do. Your conversations with others in the field are peppered with catch phrases and jargon that are foreign to the uninitiated. When it’s time to accomplish a task — open a store, build a house, buy new cash registers, sell insurance — those in the know get it done the way it has always been done, stifling innovation as they barrel along the well-worn path. (more...)


  1. yeah dude, that's why I think you gotta take time to step back and reconsider the whole business from one part of the cycle through the whole turn. It is what we don't seem to have time to do, so we jes' keep on keepin' on. But we're like Brer Rabbit stuck on the tarbaby. Iffen Brer Fox done thow' us in the brier patch we jes' can even get on outta trouble... We must have time to consider the entire cycle and at this pace... well you know, we jes keep doin' what seems expedient in the moment. It doesn't exactly inspire innovation, now does it?

  2. That's why brainstorming sessions are good. And down time on a personal basis to rejuvenate. If I'm just running and running and running I can't come up with a creative idea to save my soul. I liked reading that Intel article and I like your perspective Tim. Happy New Year to you and Gloria and your family!