“Try stuff out”…you just might change the world

How many times have you been faced with a problem and thought, ‘My goodness, I can think of a better way to do that’? We do this all the time in our day to day interactions. And yet, how often do we actually take the next step and really think about what would be involved in making things better?

Most often we don’t do anything about it. We get stuck in the same repetitive pattern of doing things that don’t work (over and over again).

So why do we do that? And how can we collectively get better at trying things out?

In the context of social innovation, prototyping and design thinking are processes intended to help you learn from your end user, empathize with their needs, incorporate many ideas, try them out, and adapt as you go.

But this isn’t standard practice for most of us. From a very young age, we learn to approach the problems we face with a “success mindset”. This mindset is helpful in a few ways: it helps us to think about what would work, and maybe even makes us look like we know what we are doing. We are often appreciated and rewarded in our society for the things we do well. Just look up success and you will find a million strategies, plans and actions to be more successful at every possible endeavour. Look up failure and you will find this definition: “lack of success.”

Truly learning or trying something new isn’t at all easy. It takes you out of your comfort zone, and that’s uncomfortable. But if we hope to get better at creating change, we need to embrace failure and reframe it as learning and adapting.

There are a few ways we can shift our mindsets and become more open to trying things out:

  1. Try on a new perspective – A new perspective enables you to see things you could not previously see. Adopt a perspective opposite from the one you typically embrace and see what kinds of learning unfolds? Recently, we were faced with a tough budgeting decision, I did not want to pay the full freight on what I saw as a joint problem so seeing it from the other’s perspective really helped me to create a win/win solution.
  2. Ask curious and genuine questions – Curious and genuine questions are ones that you really don’t know the answer to; asking people these kinds of questions really opens up new experimental terrain. It allows you and others to step into unknown spaces and learn together. Want some other ideas; check out this Harvard article about how to increase team curiousity.
  3. Engrain new mental habits – Learning something new can be hard, but unlearning how you have done something for a long time, that’s even harder. This hit home on a recent trip abroad when I kept looking right when the traffic was coming from the left. Fortunately, our brains are designed to rewire – it’s called neuroplasticity. Check out this experiment conducted by Destin Sandler on unlearning how to ride a bike.  

Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” In this time of transformative change and in the face of big community and world issues that need our attention, we need to experiment, try on new perspectives and flex our brains…and we need to get better at asking genuine curious questions.

Learn more about how your organization can become unstuck and shift your thinking to make a difference in your world.

Other resources:

  1. Interested in why we should dump the terms success and failure? Watch this video from Rob Ricigliano. https://youtu.be/9UgyelNq6xI
  2. Learn about Empathy Based prototyping https://youtu.be/d_n2QEf-WiU
  3. Complex System Design https://youtu.be/WrdSkqRypsg
  4. For more on how mental models influence our thinking, check out this video


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