Daniel Pink quoted some experiments done at New York and Cornell Universities where students were asked to solve problems imagining themselves as the recipient of the solution or, alternatively, others. The results showed that the more distant the problem solver was from the recipient of the solution, the more innovative and quicker the problem was solved!
I thought about the role that distance and unfamiliarity play in our effectiveness. Isn't it true that it is much easier to see what another person should do about their predicament than it is to apply that same clarity to our own? As an intuitive, the more I know about a challenge and the less I know about a client and his past attempts to address it, the easier it is to be accurate about both the root cause of the challenge as well as the client's gifts that may be employed in transforming it.
Why is that? It seems to me common sense that the more intensely we focus on our challenges, the more we can get caught up in the stress of meeting expectations, as well as related emotional, psychological and work anxiety. Fear of failing or getting the wrong answer or feeling humiliated add to the white noise that reduce creativity and effectiveness. Additionally, it may to us like we are making progress when we do something - anything - about the challenge in front of us, even if it is not productive!
The essential value that underlies innovation and effectiveness is neutrality. It allows intuition, inspiration, and pure play to find their way into and through us. As Shakespeare said through Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Intuition and inspiration are portals to ideas and thoughts that are inaccessible to logic.
If you are struggling with some aspect of your life, here are four suggestions:
- find someone who has no investment in the outcome to brainstorm with you about provocative possibilities
- have a friend imagine a future where the challenge is resolved and ask him to create a short story on what happened and how
- before bedtime, ask yourself to solve the problem through your dreams that night
- meditate or take a break and forget about the challenge for a while
- trust the answer is arriving from a more informed place than your logical mind...
And when you return from any of these strategies, someone may just hand you the solution!