If variety is the spice of life, diversity is the main course

spice of lifeHow many times in life have you looked at something and thought it was ridiculous, or the time wasting folly of someone with nothing better to do? Have you ever passed judgment on someone’s idea? Have you dismissed a thought because it seemed ludicrous at the time? Are The Stones the greatest band ever and everything else is garbage, paling in comparison?

At what point do we humans go into this terrifying cerebral lock down? Brick by brick, it’s as if we slowly build a walled garden around ourselves. We construct our own safe little place, where everything is just as we know and how expect it to be. Do we do this because our brains lose the ability to be open as we age, or are there other factors that cause us to go into lockdown?

Neuroscience would suggest that our behavior and lifestyle has a lot more to do with it. When you look at kids, their lives are dedicated to learning and discovery. They spend their days being challenged and tested. We on the other hand are so busy doing and getting stuff checked off the list, that we dedicate very little time to the thrill of discovery, the joy of new experiences or the inherent pleasure in trying something new. It’s quite sad really. Cognitive scientists such as Ed Cooke suggest that if adults dedicated as much time to learning we’d do a way better job of everything.

Recent discoveries in the world of Neuroscience have shown that the adult human brain is way more malleable than we have ever believed. So why don’t we use them more? Unleash them? Why aren’t our homes and work places structured to allow more learning? Our minds are amazing machines that need to be exercised constantly. It is no coincidence that organizations such as Google don’t just encourage discovery, they build for it. It is a line item on the P&L. Just as it should be on any dynamic and future focused business today. Active minds are powerful and when unleashed on a problem, don’t just find an answer, they create a solution.

Let’s look at a real life example. I’ve listened to people phooey the concept of Google Glass. “What a stupid waste of money.” “It’s just too weird, they’ll never take off.” “They’re just for geeks so they can stay in the internet.”  Clearly all these naysayers are themselves blind to what Glass is. It’s the liberation of information from the confines of your pocket, bag or desktop. It’s a heads-up delivery of data that is everything for someone, not something for everyone.

Now, the concept of head’s up information isn’t new. Fighter pilots and even regular drivers like you and I have had it for some time in our cars. So, despite what people suggest, augmented reality and real-time data delivery is not a toy for geeks. It’s a hard-core tool that will begin to revolutionize many things.

Take for example the DAQRI Smart Helmet. Simply put, this is a helmet with a glass-like HUD system that will revolutionize the industry. Imagine not having to venture deep into a dangerous refinery or factory to locate a valve. You can simply observe the area, identify the problem zoom in and interact with the system. Imagine being in a wildfire and being able to locate buildings and emergency units because you can see them wire-framed in your screen thanks to satellites, GPS and mapping data. The possibilities are endless and it’s quite spectacular example of how an organization challenged convention and created something breakthrough.

Of course, these brilliant ideas don’t just “happen” though. They emerge from businesses that are forward thinking and built for discovery, that enables their purpose. Organizations have intelligence by way of their culture and constitution and if a culture of learning and creativity is not enabled, then it will continue to live in a walled garden. It will age, just like a person, until eventually, it’s out of commission altogether.

So, try something a little different. Welcome diverse perspectives, switch the discovery radar on and turn it up to 11. Read a book you’d normally flip past. Take time to learn what your iPad can do. Watch a film in a genre you really never liked. Try a meal you’ve never dared before. Dance. Watch the clouds with a 4-year-old. Make a card instead of buying one. Daydream, because it’s OK; it won’t kill you. Risk getting something wrong. People watch. Stop looking at your watch. Reflect. Ask why and observe every little detail around you. Embrace possibility.

It sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? And, to a business, it sounds expensive. But if variety is the spice of life, diversity is the main course and without the chance to grow, we simply exist; we don’t live at all.

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