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Every business relies on cutting-edge ideas to stay ahead of the competition. Success hinges on maximizing the efforts needed to take a product from idea to development to launch. An important consideration for product development teams that can boost their capacity to generate new ideas and find creative solutions involves learning to recognize and overcome mechanisms in our brains that discourage us from innovating.

From the time of our prehistoric ancestors, our brains have been wired to steer us away from the new and novel, and toward the customary and the status quo. In the early age of civilization when humans needed to be hyper-vigilant and risk-averse, the brain developed Cognitive Biases, which honed our instincts for the known and away from the unknown. Playing it safe was our brain's necessary default mechanism when the cost of taking risks was truly a matter of life or death. But, in today's world, playing it safe is more likely to threaten our survival in the market.

How can we overcome the defaults wired in our brains that inhibit innovation? It's a matter of learning to consciously compensate and strategically employ more effort, more focus, and more conscious thought to our creative endeavors.

Use these breakthrough strategies to move past the brain's Cognitive Biases that dissuade innovation:

  1. Shut down Conformity Bias-Conformity Bias leads us to play along in order to get along with our co-workers. We're hardwired for group agreement. But the unconscious tug of conformity stalls innovation. Conformity Bias keeps employees from speaking up when it means going against the group. At its worst, Conformity Bias leads to catastrophic consequences -- such as the suppressed disagreement that led to the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. Instead, learn to embrace dissent. While dissent for its own sake can undermine the group and diminish morale, dissenting points of view can enrich the group when introduced and incorporated effectively. Remind the team, frequently and supportively, that their initial individual response is important to hear, and that getting their opposing ideas out on the table is more important than everyone making nice.

To find out more about overcoming Confirmation Bias, Negativity Bias and Availability Bias, continue reading at Young Upstarts or US Daily Review.


Ed Harrington is CEO at Ideas To Go and has spent twenty-five years helping a who's who of corporate America come up with new and innovative ideas. He also serves on the Yale Center for Customer Insights board of directors. Together with Adam Hansen and Beth Storz, he is co-author of the new book, Outsmart Your Instincts: How the Behavioral Innovation Approach Drives Your Company Forward (Forness Press). 

Ed Harrington

Ed Harrington is CEO and Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies to incorporate the voice of the consumer in ideation and concept development. He co-authored the book, "Outsmart Your Instincts: How the Behavioral Innovation Approach Drives Your Company Forward."