Dare to Be Anticonventional
By Jeffrey Baumgartner
We live and work in cultures that encourage conventional behaviour, appearance and thinking. For the most part, that is fine and dandy. Conventions ensure that society functions well, that we understand how to behave when interacting with others and limit the damage one might do socially. But it can also stifle creativity. After all, creative ideas are seldom conventional and the most creative ideas inevitably challenge conventions. Apple, for instance, did not invent new technologies with the iPod, iPad and iPhone. Rather, they rejected conventional thinking around such products and built their own products that were unconventionally designed -- at least by the standards at that time. In fact, they were so successful, they redefined the conventions. Few mobile phones these days lack a touch-screen.
Anticonventional thinking (ACT) explicitly stresses the purposeful rejection of conventional thinking in favour of unconventional thinking. And while the focus of ACT is mostly on the process, a philosophy of purposefully being unconventional on occasion is good exercise for the creative mind and leads to creative thinking on a regular basis.
This is a big part of why living overseas boosts creativity for the long term. Different cultures have different ideas of conventional behaviour. As a result, when you move to a new country, you become aware of those differences and have to make decisions on whether to adopt the conventions of your new home, stick to your conventions or find a middle ground. The very act of realising that your conventions are unconventional in your new home forces you to question those conventions.
Fortunately, you do not need to move abroad to challenge conventions and think unconventionally. You just need to think about conventions in a particular area, make a conscious effort to reject them and see what thoughts or actions might replace the rejected conventional ones. You can try this exercise with social behaviour, company processes, products or just about anything.
For instance, consider company meetings. Most likely, you have a process of booking meeting rooms (at least if yours is a larger company), sitting around a table and following a structured approach to your meeting which is all very conventional and, let us be honest here, boring.
Fortunately, there are all kinds of ways you can challenge your meeting conventions. Don't book a room, but randomly seek a space just before the meeting is to start. Have a standing meeting. Book and empty room and sit on the floor. Have a walking meeting. Sit outside. Stand on the roof. Establish a talking stick and make it mandatory that a person may only speak if holding the stick. Require that everyone wear a hat. Limit everyone to 30 seconds of speaking time. Use webinar software to hold a meeting even though you are all in the same room.
Think about it and I am sure you can come up with a dozen unconventional ways to hold meetings. Better still, try some of them!
Yes, I know that a number of the ideas above have been suggested by others long ago -- and some of the ideas, such as standing meetings and walking meetings have fans who swear by these approaches. Nevertheless, changing the way you hold meetings is particularly useful if you want people to think more creatively. By challenging the conventions of corporate meetings, you open participants' minds to the idea of challenging conventions in other aspects of business -- and it is just such thinking that leads to creativity.
So, if you want to be more creative yourself or if you want your team to be more creative, learn to reject conventional thinking from time to time.
Anticonventional Book and Workshops and Talks
If you want more information about anticonventional thinking, check out my new book entitled, appropriately, Anticonventional Thinking. Better still, hire me to do a workshop, a talk or both on anticonventional thinking in your organisation. Or, get in touch with me to discuss your anticonventional needs!
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