Alan Gozdalski has taken care of the landscaping on my property for over 20 years. He treats my property like his own. When a devastating fall storm hit Buffalo, NY in October of 2006, Al was one of the first people who called me to check on how his (my) yard fared. I am pretty sure that we both had tears in our eyes when we walked the property and found ourselves shoulder-high in a sea of broken trees.
Al is one of the most creative entrepreneurs I know. He pioneered residential ponds in Western New York, and since 1997, he has installed over 1,000 ponds in the area, including one in my yard. Every year I host a holiday party at my house. I invite clients, friends, students and interesting people who have become friends. Al comes to the party.
I was at Al’s store recently, and he introduced me to another customer. He made a point of telling them about my parties. “I met a plethora of interesting people at Roger’s party. In five minutes, I talked to five different people with different ethnic and work backgrounds. I met a nun, a cardiologist, a rock musician who is in the Buffalo music hall of fame, a Pilates instructor, farmers, branding experts, website designers, entrepreneurs, corporate presidents, college professors and some of Roger’s graduate students who are different ages and nationalities.”
Al loves my party. Why? Because at the party, he is exposed to people who don’t think the same way he does.
One of the most effective ways to get creative is to interact with people from varying backgrounds who have a variety of interests. This isn’t always easy to do, for most of us find it more comfortable to spend time with people familiar to us. To our own detriment, we often don’t make the time or effort to meet new people.
I am pretty sure that we violate the fire code by packing so many people into the house at the holiday party. You can’t help but meet new people when you come. And, if I know two people who would enjoy talking with one another, I make a point to pull them aside to make an introduction.
Research conducted on communication networks determined that the best source of new information is NOT from the people you see regularly. Why? Those people usually have the same information that you do.
The best source of new information is from other networks — people who run in circles different from your own. In technical terms, this is known as non-homogeneous groups. To stimulate your creativity, it is important to tap into groups of people with whom you usually don’t interact.
I offer a program called Breakthroughs Lab, designed to help clients work through tough problems. When I’m hired for these projects, my clients are stuck and facing an obstacle that even their most competent people can’t solve. They often tell me, “We need to have all of the technical experts on this.” I ask them this — “If the technical experts haven’t been able to solve the problem, then why would we have more technical experts work on the problem??
Instead, a Breakthroughs Lab consists of a client and five to seven “creative catalysts” — industry experts who are also highly trained in Creative Problem-Solving. I find people who know very little or nothing about the client’s problem. By nature of being new to the problem, they will have new information that the client does not have. It’s sort of like coming to my holiday party, but the focus is on creating a breakthrough.
The same is true for developing strategy. You will get a much richer result if you include people who are NOT working the business all of the time. They bring the fresh perspective that can set you apart from your competition.
Seek out those people who you might not usually connect with. Talk to them. Learn from them. And if you are in Buffalo, NY in December, give me a call. There might be a party brewing.
About the Author
Dr. Roger Firestien has taught more people to lead the creative process than anyone else in the world. He is senior faculty and an associate professor at the Center for Creativity and Change Leadership at SUNY Buffalo, author of Create in A Flash: A Leader’s Recipe For Breakthrough Innovation and President of Innovation Resources, Inc.
For more information please visit: https://rogerfirestien.com/