Thursday, October 8, 2020

Questioning Conventional Wisdom to Make a Digital Leap

The abundance of information flow and the advanced digital technologies make it possible to gain real-time insight and pursue new possibilities. 

Nowadays we live in a digital society with exponential growth of information, clicks away knowledge, open culture, but also in face of frequent disruptions and fierce competitions. 

Fundamentally running business is about solving problems and making progressive changes. Digital leaders and professionals should be learning agile, challenging conventional wisdom which has a negative connotation about sticking to outdated concepts, traditions, cultures, or the old ways to do things. The art of questioning is to ignite innovative thinking, attract fresh ideas, collect constructive feedback, and make a leap of digital transformation.

Digging into conventional mindset that gets stuck with outdated concepts and encourages mediocrity: Due to the scarcity of information and static setting in the industrial age, many people are used to living in familiar territory with a silo mentality and apply conventional wisdom based on a very limited thinking box they shaped quite a long time ago. If we all stayed in a box and didn't believe things exist outside of our box, there's no room to broaden our thoughts and no progress can be made. Thus, it's critical to set heterogeneous teams to mind cognitive differences, spark creativity and make true progress. It takes vision to perceive the future of the business or society, it takes courage to make constructive criticism, it takes time and energy to update knowledge, and it takes strategy to drive and sustain progressive changes.

Oftentimes, the conventional mind is bound by its beliefs and general practices which perhaps do not fit any more. Some rational or accumulative wisdom that grows with age, or “learning from past experience” are already lagging behind the digital era with blurred geographical, functional, organizational or industrial borders. Practicing “out-of-box” thinking takes a certain mental, psychological and conditional chemistry to break away from thoughts that others have thought about or conventional wisdom. It’s imperative to inspire the diversity of thoughts, practice nonlinear thinking, continue to refine your knowledge via the full “learning cycle,” to gain deep insight. Otherwise, with a conventional mind, you expect unconventional results, this is like walking on the treadmill, keep walking around without real progress.

Searching for flaws in decisions and that widens the possibility of coming up with alternative solutions: Linear or bipolar thinking, poor or inaccurate judgment, miscommunication, illogical interpretations, ineffective processes, or lack of contextual intelligence, etc., all cause decision flaws which further lead to a series of issues cascaded into big problems and fatal business failures. It takes courage and mental toughness to break through conventional wisdom; it takes persistence and determination to practice real critical thinking, ask right questions, acquire all the necessary information, analyze and synthesize it, and optimize processes to improve decision maturity.

Asking the right questions helps to exercise one's cognitive and sociological sensitivity, validate how thorough and deep your team's thinking is on a particular issue; it can also assess whether they consider various different perspectives, streamline the decision processes, search for flaws or potential decision pitfalls. Question self, question others, question each other: What fresh know or new ideas do you have? What resources do you need? What are you missing? Who can help you? Etc. From a problem solving perspective, mature decision makers are both logical and creative, first approach the problem from all possible conventional methods, then practice out-of-the-box thinking to explore innovative solutions. 

Questioning mediocrity which discourages risk taking and innovation: The reason people are struggling for wisdom is because it means that one has to make a huge effort to get beyond rational linear thinking. With a static mindset and being called conventional wisdom, the same mediocrity is inherited down the line by generations, organizations or the society keep nurturing mediocrity and unrealistically keep expecting innovation out of that mediocrity. That impedes collective human progress.

There is a strategic value of asking the good questions that evoke a response to enlighten or illustrate a specific issue or topic and inspire innovation, such as: What am I trying to achieve? Where can I find my resources? Who can I rely upon to help me? What are the natural barriers or human barriers to achieving my goals? How can I convince others that alternative paths will bear more or less fruit? Some crisis situations, often with more frequent digital disruptions, will require innovative process; where a conventional style would be troublesome. You have to be determined to get better results somehow and it will help to try unconventional thinking practices, encourage calculated risk taking and catalyze innovation.

The abundance of information flow and the advanced digital technologies make it possible to gain real-time insight and pursue new possibilities. True innovators have always been intrigued and they have always asked questions - to themselves, to circumstances, to books, to experiences, and to other fellow people, to challenge assumptions, be open to fresh thoughts or knowledge, breakdown conventional thinking and nurture creativity.


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