Note: This is the first of five posts on changing the way we think. The article was originally published on LinkedIn’s Influencer publishing platform.
Albert Einstein was a smart guy, and there’s an interesting quote he left us that goes something like this: “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”
Now, I didn’t have a personal relationship with the famous physicist, but that won’t prevent me from speculating on what he meant. I think he meant that trying to get insight into complex problems requires moving beyond your initial perception. I think he meant that a logical and analytical left-brain assault on a challenge is merely one way to approach it, and cultivated minds aren’t limited only to that.
Who’s not trying to solve sticky problems these days? The fact is, no company is free from problems and now it seems they’re more ferocious than ever. Organizations large and small are rife with challenges, which, ironically, can be a wonderful thing. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention and it is when we’re backed into corners that we discover our most remarkable insights. But challenges are only good for companies if they develop a deep capacity for creative thinking.
Here’s some new-market truth: the smattering of complications we face at work, now and in the future, means that organizations need to attract and train armies of visually literate individuals—people I call Infodoodlers—to tackle every kind of problem, and they need to do it fast. Here are five good reasons why companies need to get these people on board ASAP:
The Knowledge Economy and the Experience Economy are rapidly replacing the Industrial Era around the world.
Digital creative talent doesn’t want to work in old-school words-and-numbers companies (sorry).
Companies don’t know what they don’t know. Blindspots = danger.
We’re in the midst of information overload and a creativity crisis.
To be truly innovative, companies have to dispel the notion that innovation is magic and they need to institutionalize Infodoodling techniques to build an efficiency of idea generation.
Over the next weeks, I’ll dig into each of these reasons. But first let’s just admit we’re not in Kansas anymore.
The Knowledge Economy and the Experience Economy
In the Western world, the Industrial Era has been dissolving for some time now, giving rise to the next generations of economic activity, which are driven not so much by the production of goods and services, but by the production of information and experiences. These new economies are called, respectively, the knowledge economy and the experience economy.
The idea of a “knowledge economy” was introduced in Peter Drucker’s 1966 publication of The Effective Executive. Drucker defines the distinction between a manual worker and a “knowledge worker” as the distinction between someone who works with her hands to produces goods or services versus someone who works with her head to produce information, knowledge and ideas. Likewise, the idea of an “experience economy”, which was outlined in a 1998 article by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, is one in which businesses intentionally design memorable events and experiences for their customers (à la Apple’s Genius Bar) so that the memory itself is the product, and the value derived from that experience is what people are really paying for.
The skills needed to perform in these new markets are often dramatically different from the skills valued in the industrial era that preceded them – skills that deliver intellectual and creative capital rather than widgets. Infodoodlers, with the right training and the right instruction, are people who know how to churn out volumes of “thought capital”, fast. They also know how to explore information, visualize information, communicate it to others and make maps on the road to producing bigger and better knowledge and experiences. Infodoodlers help the market go ‘round and ‘round.
How do they do this? Why do some people (and companies) thrive in the new economic landscape and others struggle? Here’s a peek into how the mind works:
When our brain attempts to solve a problem, it wants to be energetically efficient. So it begins by searching for surface answers—those that are easy and obvious. When it’s addressing a question, the brain combs the data “files” of what popular culture thinks of as the “left hemisphere” to find out if it’s seen the problem before. It doesn’t want to invent a solution if one already exists.
If there is no familiar and readily available response, that’s when our brain dedicates more energy to draw on deeper resources. It invites the more intuitive and imaginative right hemisphere to participate in solving the problem, scanning remote but possibly relevant memories and abstractions that could provide it with a solution. This information would normally be tuned out by the left hemisphere but has become available in a time of need. (Read: When we’re in that corner.)
In other words, solving higher-order, creative problems, requires the types of people who can activate the entirety of their brain, the analytical and the insightful, in order to push, poke, prod, plumb their contents and experiment with that content in order to tease out alternate solutions.
Higher-order thinking, the kind of thinking that will be valued and expected in economies based on creative capital, has a powerful support group in the Infodoodle. Infodoodling opens a world of cognitive functions and draws forth our right hemispheres to expand the information available to us and see it in new light. The act of combining thinking and doodling can effectively facilitate that conversation with our whole minds, the conversation that becomes essential in economies based on knowledge.
So companies that want to thrive need to recognize Infodoodling as a sophisticated, buildable skill and start to train their talent to apply it in business. Those that do are saying to the rising markets: I’m not afraid of you. My employees and I are gearing up to meet the challenges you present. We’re taking on the world with words, pictures AND thinking techniques. We’ll map the hell out of sticky problems and then own them. How do you like that?!
In the words of Dan Pink, the future belongs to “creators, storytellers, empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers”—the so-called right brainers. It belongs to people capable of awakening the massive power of our creative content lying deep beneath the surface. And of course, the future belongs to companies ready to hire and empower Infodoodlers of every shape and size.