Global speaker and serial entrepreneur Jeff Hoffman (Priceline.com, uBid.com, ColorJar) has a unique daily activity he uses to help him condition his mind for innovation.
I once attended a talk where Hoffman spoke about an exercise that he does every morning he called “info-sponging.” It’s the process by which he will spend up to twenty minutes a day reading. It could be from a newspaper, a book, a website, or a magazine article. It’s the one time of day where he focuses on soaking up as much new information as he possibly can. The trick to this daily ritual is that the topics he chooses are not always directly related to anything in which he’s currently working. The whole point of the exercise is that he reads material or subjects designed to open his mind to new thoughts.
Hoffman believes that the best way to stay sharp is to have a broad information funnel. He also stressed that curiosity in all aspects is a key factor in discovering new ideas.
I’m grateful to people like Jeff Hoffman, who push past boundaries, who will eagerly sail into the unknown in his quest for new knowledge. Where would we be as a civilization if we didn’t have people who were insatiably curious, or who consistently rejected established norms to challenge societal dogma?
The other exciting item that captivated me that he spoke about was how to look outside your industry for new ideas. Anyone looking to disrupt the industry they work in may find it daunting to do it from the inside. In other words, if you work in health care, you must look outside your industry for innovation. Hoffman explained it like this, “If you work in health care, what do you work on all day long? Health care. What problems do you solve all day? Health care problems. If I asked you, ‘Hey, I’m going to conference on banking, do you want to go?’ You might say, ‘No, I don’t work in banking, why would I do that? I work in health care.” Hoffman would urge you to take a leap of faith and go to the banking conference.
Take for example, the drive-up window. The first recorded use of a drive-up window, was the Grand National Bank of St. Louis, Missouri, in 1930. Until then, you had to go physically into the bank to transact all your business. The first drive-thru window for food was opened in 1947 by Red’s Giant Hamburg on Route 66 in Springfield, Missouri. Is it possible that perhaps the banking industry inspired the drive-thru window for food service? I don’t believe it would be a stretch for anyone to assume that connection. It is rather interesting that both innovations got their start in Missouri.
Innovation takes many forms and sometimes it’s difficult to measure what its true impact will be. The ride hailing company Uber was never going to be created by a taxi company. Just as Airbnb was never going to be coaxed into existence by a hotel chain. But yet, those companies have completely disrupted their respective industries.
History has shown us examples of this theory in action. Archimedes, in the original “eureka” moment, discovered a method for measuring the volume of an irregularly shaped object in relation to the gold in the king’s crown while he took a bath. Gutenberg is credited with combining the idea of block printing with a screw press that was mainly used for olive oil and wine production. His idea brought print to the masses with his Gutenberg Bible.
So what issues or business challenges could you be solving by looking outside your industry for answers? It again comes down to getting out of your way and being willing to expand your comfort zone.
Consider adding info-sponging to your daily ritual. Remember, you don’t have to have all the answers; you just need to be ready to take action when your “eureka” moment arrives.
THE AUTHOR: WILLIAM CHILDS | Creative Director | Brand Storyteller | Columnist | Optimist
Bill is an accomplished creative leader with a history of delivering award-winning campaigns for a variety of businesses. Relentlessly dedicated to the skillful and creative translation of strategic business objectives, he’s known as a collaborative mentor and champion of fearless creativity. With a career spanning three decades, Childs knows how to take an acceptable idea and turn it into an exceptional one. His reputation of setting high creative standards while helping to create a culture of genuine collaboration and engagement is one of things he’s most proud of across his career. Recognizing and mentoring talent, and building high-performing, cohesive teams is one of his passions. Email. Website. Twitter. LinkedIn.
Image from Shutterstock (Wachiraphorn Thongya)