Many times, business owners are looking for a formula or an exact template that someone else, in their industry, used to grow. They look for experts that worked with businesses just like theirs, or for vendors and suppliers who specialize in their market. And while industry expertise has its place, when it comes to marketing, it is always beneficial to have fresh eyes and fresh ideas. Oftentimes, those fresh outlooks come from “outsiders”...or those who deeply understand the principles of marketing but are not experts in a particular industry. These folks are able to see a larger pattern, to see areas of opportunity, and to see blocks or gaps that are sitting right in front of the industry expert but remain unseen.
Our Brains are Hard-Wired for Efficiency
Because our brains are hardwired for efficiencies, we naturally develop shortcuts in thinking. In psychology circles, they are called cognitive biases. These thinking shortcuts develop when our brain detects repetitive situations that have repetitive solutions. Instead of wasting active, high-energy brain power on thinking and tasks that are done repetitively, our brain learns how to accomplish these things subconsciously. Kind of like driving the same route to work every day. After a while, you can get from your house to your office without any real conscious effort. You may even arrive at your office with no tangible memory of the drive you just took. Instead, you were using your conscious brain to think about your upcoming meeting or perhaps the fight you had with a loved one the night before. The point is, you drove to work mostly using your subconscious mind...habitually.
Over time, We Become Blind to Our Habitual Thinking
When we work in a particular industry for an extended period of time, we start to see which tasks and thinking seem to be inherent or repetitive. Once we learn “the industry standards” we stop actively thinking about them and we operate subconsciously. By the way, this is how cultures are built and maintained in organizations and companies. It is truly obvious when someone thinks or behaves in a way that is contradictory to the company culture, or the industry standards. This tendency isn’t good or bad, it is just the way we are wired. The problem is when we stop seeing opportunities to question “the way things are done around here.” Not in a confrontational, rebellious way, but instead in a way that helps to see through the block and challenges we put up ourselves (i.e. the controllable) vs. those that we must adapt to or around that are beyond our control.
Industry Outsiders Can Ask the Difficult Questions
Having an outsider perspective can help to break down these habitual, automatic, subconscious efficiencies in thinking. They question everything because they haven’t been indoctrinated into the company or industry culture. The questioning helps others see through their cognitive biases and find solutions that were sitting right in front of them, but they were blind to because of their brain efficiencies.
Outsiders bring their own set of experiences and cognitive efficiencies to the process. Their outside perspective and experience can bring to the table other ideas from other industries, that when combined with the current company approach, can create a whole new reality. Outsiders with a broad, strategic perspective can combine two “old” ideas to create something new. Take, for example, the science of genetics. It was created when Gregor Mendel combined mathematics and biology...2 completely separate disciplines, together to create a brand new science. If Mendel was hyperfocused on biology his entire life, he may not have seen the possibility of the combination. It was his generalist, outsider background that enabled him to pull from two different disciplines to create an entirely new one and change the course of history.
So, where might you, as a business owner, be seeking out only the knowledge, advice and expertise of only those who have worked in your particular industry? Are you hiring by screening out the “outsiders” before ever having a conversation? What might this exclusion of outside ideas be doing to your creativity, and your ability to find solutions that will change the growth trajectory of your organization?