Why You Need to See Other People

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I think you need to see other people.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with your current relationship, or your current colleagues, or your current friends. I just think you need to see other people. We all do. Because if we keep interacting with the same people—just the same people—we’re going to keep hearing the same points of view, and sameness is the mortal enemy of innovation. Just this morning in Indiana, President Obama said, “The United States led the world’s economies in the 20th century because we led the world in innovation.  Today, the competition is keener; the challenge is tougher; and that’s why innovation is more important than ever.” Now, you can disagree with the president on health care, the economy, and bailouts, but you really can’t disagree with this one. Innovation is more important than ever, and that’s why we need to see other people.

When, toward the latter stage of their career as a band, the Beatles found themselves getting into a rut, they’d bring other musicians—and other points of view—into their recording sessions. George Harrison was unhappy with the way the recording was going on his song While My Guitar Gently Weeps, so he asked a friend of his, Eric Clapton, to come in and play lead guitar on it. Think about that, you business leaders. He put his own ego aside (he was, after all, the Beatles’ lead guitarist) to bring in a guitar legend, because he realized he needed a different musical point of view than he was getting within the context of the Beatles. And this happened again, during the Let It Be sessions, when the Beatles brought in keyboard whiz Billy Preston to play on Get Back and a few other songs.

The point is, if the Beatles felt like they needed to “see other people” from time to time, then what about your business? If you agree that innovation is really more important than ever (and if you don’t agree, you can stop reading this right now; in fact, you may as well cancel your Internet account, find a horse and buggy, and go live with the Amish), then you owe it to yourself and your team to constantly be seeking out new and different points of view. There are several ways you can do this:

  • hire more people of diverse backgrounds and points of view
  • bring in “outside brains” to help out with a project, or simply to brainstorm for a day or two
  • go to events you would normally say no to—you never know who you may meet
  • strike up a conversation with the person beside you on the plane (unless it’s me, in which case I’d like you to be quiet and keep your fat elbows off the armrest)
  • get to know your neighbors (the ones who don’t work where you do)

Really, leaders, it’s time to broaden your circle of acquaintances. (By the way, it was that word, “acquaintances,” that kept me from winning the sixth grade spelling bee. I spelled it “P-A-L-S,” but the draconian judges wouldn’t allow it. But they’re probably dead now, so in the long run, I win.) Neither you nor y0ur business can afford to shut the door on that next great innovation.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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