Un-Learning: How To Un-Block and Bust Fixedness in People’s Mindsets?

Expert: Rachel AudigéCurator: Janett Egber

@rachelaudige Train your teams to take a different search engine through their minds to break fixedness and unearth counter-intuitive ideas. # Systematic Inventive Thinking #Inside-the-box thinking

00 // Intro

01 // Considering organizational culture: what is blocking innovation today?

02 // How do we do un-learning?

03 // How do we embed the skills and tools for un-learning?

// Summary

As intrapreneurs we need to know how to challenge biases to create space for counter-intuitive ideas and real innovation.

To help us get there, experienced Intrapreneur and Director of Systematic Inventive Thinking Australia Rachel Audigé spoke with Janett Egbar and offered powerful insights into the importance of “busting fixedness” and the systematic, meticulous ways we can do this.

First: Recognize biases

When discussing what needs to be unlearnt, Rachel says that there are up to 100 biases at work and around 36 that directly inhibit our ability to innovate. In her work with larger corporations, she’s found some key biases we should all be particularly wary of:

Authority bias: Our tendency to attribute greater accuracy to anyone in a higher position. Also known as the HiPPO effect – or the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.

Bandwagon bias: Our predisposition to replicate and emulate what others are doing.

Law of the instrument: Our habit of becoming unquestioningly enamored with a methodology, process or tool. Hence the well-known idiom, “if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Fight cognitive fixedness

Fixedness, according to Rachel, is a bias that makes us unable to imagine new options or alternatives. Three main forms of fixedness routinely hinder innovation:
Functional fixedness: a rigid understanding of what each item or element can or should do.
Structural fixedness: a limitation in our ability to see something as a sum of its parts, as opposed to a unified whole.
Relational fixedness: our tendency to lock components into a symmetrical pattern.

That may seem like a fairly straightforward enemy to combat, says Rachel, but it’s important to keep in mind that those ideas are so deeply embedded because they’ve usually served us well.

Unlearning systematically

While public perception of innovation and creativity often evoke concepts of spontaneity and talent, Rachel and other proponents of SIT – or Systematic Inventive Thinking – believe there is, in fact, a DNA to the most inventive ideas. Indeed, SIT is based on the observation of 5 patterns that cover 80% of the best ideas. These patterns have been reverse-engineered into thinking tools that can be learnt.

Underpinning the use of these tools is a a counter-intuitive workflow that helps to unearth new ideas and unlearn any fixedness we might have about the product, service or process we are working on. While classic methods work function to form (or problem to solution); SIT works Form to Function. Rachel calls it solution-probleming, as opposed to problem solutioning.

Try some inside-the-box thinking: It’s been proven that constraints actually make innovation more effective and more resourceful. The SIT process that Rachel adopted as an intrapreneur and now delivers in her business is based on a principle of “Closed World” thinking whereby you can only use the resources you have to solve your problem. This, by itself, is not very helpful, but when combined with the fixedness busting tools and the Function Follows Form workflow, it leads to very counter-intuitive and feasible ideas.

“Fixedness is not a disease. It’s often what has made us more efficient at our jobs. It’s only a problem when you have to innovate.”

5 core tools of inside-the-box thinking:

  • Subtraction: Removing something that seems essential to the system.
  • Unification: Attributing a new task to an existing resource.
  • Division: Dividing a product or process into its different parts or steps; rearranging them in space or time.
  • Multiplication: Replicating a step or part and changing it.
  • Attribute Dependency: Removing or creating a relationship or dependency between two elements or steps.