Our life experiences help shape who we are, how we think and where we focus. Sometimes we immerse ourselves in a particular field and become good at it. This has many benefits of course, but when it comes to generating new ideas, it can also make things more difficult.

Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville, a 19th century Frenchman, was skilled in stenography and knew how to capture the spoken word quickly on paper through shorthand. He wondered if there was a way to mechanically capture sound (any sound – not just the spoken word) onto paper. After much experimentation, he invented the first known sound-recording device – the “phonoautogram”. Sound waves caused a stylus to vibrate, making impressions using a coating of soot on paper.  This was innovative for its time – no-one had recorded sound before. But it was also somewhat myopic, because his mindset was based in stenography. Like in stenography, where symbols have to be learnt and translated back into words, he thought people would be trained to read the patterns on phonoautogram paper, and hence know what sound made them. It did not occur to him to invent a device to play back the sound recording in the form of sound.

We’ve found that some of the most effective ways to generate ideas and minimize myopia include putting people with different backgrounds together on a problem, or looking to areas outside your field for inspiration. Broadening your experiences can help expose you to new idea stimuli … talk to people unlike you, say “yes” to activities you haven’t tried before, listen to a new TV/radio station.

Share below what’s worked for you!