Usually, when dealing with daily tasks or problems, we have a tendency to stick to tried and tested thinking patterns, and this is due to pure biology. The brain, like the whole of our body, is programmed to save energy whenever possible. No wonder then that it switches on the auto-pilot at any opportunity. Even if – in a moment of fantasy – we try to go out of the ruts, we end up on well-known tracks, although perhaps used less frequently, however, based upon familiar patterns and connections.
This is well illustrated by a simple trick with a question for three quick associations: a fruit, a colour and a poet. Here we can display our mind-reading ability, since when asked to name one of each, 90% of respondents will give identical answers: apple, red, Shakespeare. If your answers were different from this pattern – my congratulations: you have a different imprinted pattern than 90% of the population. However, this is also an imprinted pattern. In the next similar situation, your brain will quickly reach for these associations. Why waste energy?
In everyday routines this is a blessing. Can you imagine starting each morning with devising how to brush your teeth? Or discovering each day, while driving, how to operate the gears, wheel, clutch and so on – independently and simultaneously? And this is just a handling of the car. Add to this new discoveries, over and over, on traffic and figuring out how it works. Thankfully we have all that learned and trained through repetition, so we can do it, without even realising when and how.
The same rule applies to our professional activity. Individually and in teams, we have a tendency to stick to what we are good at and which ways that work best. As long as we don’t face a problem, we do not even consider a different approach. And what happens when we face it? We automatically try to rebalance and quickly set things on track by falling back into routines, procedures and proven solutions. And life goes on – over and over.
And this is fine if it happens in the army, on board a ship or plane, in an operating room, during rescue, or during maintenance checks of machines and systems. Speed of finding right answer is of the essence. The main goal: preserving or regaining the status quo. People acting orderly, capably and perfectly fit here the best. But unfortunately this is not enough when we look forward to development, which always means change. So what to do then?
The vicious cycle described above reminds me of the drunk man from an anecdote, who walked around a pillar, feeling his way around the concrete surface, and shouting out: “Help! They walled me in!” But this is so simple, just turn around and walk away in any desired direction. Simple, but not with a reactive manner. What you need is a creative approach, one using your imagination and a clear vision. Wherever reactive people meet problems, creative ones see opportunities. Creativity is just a skill, and, as with any skill, it can be learned. The choice is yours – unless you see your opportunity in walking on a treadmill.