Make a list of who you want to talk to.
- Start by identifying stakeholders. These are people who have a stake in the work or its outcomes. They often include customers, suppliers, vendors, and employees.
- Remember to include diverse voices from different lived experiences, genders, races, ethnicities, and identities are essential to gain deep insights.
Listen and understand deeply.
- Deep listening means putting aside your own views and biases and focusing on what is being said. It means building empathy for the person talking and paying attention to their words and other cues, including the feelings behind the word. Although it is a difficult skill, it is a crucial one.
- Deep listening is also active. It requires us to think actively about how the other person’s view affects what we know and changes the way we understand and frame the problem.
Identify other contexts from which you can draw insights.
- Often called analogical thinking, this step of the process helps because we often draw the deepest insights not from our own context, but from adjacent or even distant ones.
- For example, electric-services company Pacific Power had a problem with ice building up on the power cables in winter, causing the lines to break. Getting a lineworker to climb up the towers and scrape the ice off was too dangerous. The company tried multiple times to come up with creative solutions but failed. The eventual solution came from a wildly distant context: bears. During a coffee break in one meeting, a lineworker recounted how he had once been chased up a pole by a bear, which led to the idea of placing honey pots on top of the poles so that bears would climb up and shake the ice off with the vibrations. Another person, playfully building on the idea, suggested using helicopters to place the pots. This led to the eventual solution of flying a helicopter closely over the power lines so that the downwash from the blades shook the lines and knocked the ice off.
- The people directly around us often see the world in much the same way we do. By engaging with people who are in different sectors, countries, or parts of society, we can gain new perspectives and find unique ideas. Be deliberate in reaching out to people that you only marginally know or networking in places you would not normally go.