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Book Review: ‘Outsmart Your Instincts: How the Behavioral Innovation Approach Drives Your Company Forward,’ by Adam Hansen, Ed Harrington and Beth Storz

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ITG_CVR_CMYK_09.28.16.inddWhy is ”no” our default answer, and “yes” so much harder to come by? Why do we habitually veer toward the tried and true, and away from the novel and unfamiliar? A new book, Outsmart Your Instincts: How the Behavioral Innovation Approach Drives Your Company Forward, offers new insights into these behaviors. Written by a team of three innovation and strategy experts, Adam Hansen, Ed Harrington and Beth Storz, it offers powerful tips for recognizing and overcoming innate biases when new ideas or creative problem-solving are needed instead.

The negativity and conformity that stymie our creative juices are hard-wired in our brains, say the authors. Such behaviors are remnants from our prehistoric ancestors, who had to be hyper-vigilant and risk-averse in order to survive. But in today’s world, where new always outshines old, these instincts — or Cognitive Biases — can lead us to a different kind of extinction, especially in the professional realm.

Outsmart Your Instincts examines eight such biases, and reveals how they inhibit innovation. For example, there’s the “stay-in-bounds electric fence” of Conformity Bias, which leads us to play along in order to get along with our co-workers, instead of expressing our own ideas. Another, Confirmation Bias, leads us to ignore information that contradicts our existing beliefs in favor of information that supports them.

How do we overcome such barriers? In clever, engaging language, the authors offer effective, and often playful approaches, including asking ourselves, “Why do I think that?” and “How do I know that?” There are potent strategies to overcoming these behaviors during a team effort or brainstorming session, such as the Forness Process, which switches our thinking from rejection mode to problem-solving mode. It’s a tactic that moves a team away from killing ideas before fully considering them — a vital tool for endeavors like product development and creative collaboration.

To counter Confirmation Bias, the authors suggest bringing in outsiders for a refreshing point of reference and new ideas. The infusion can push the group past the often inevitable thought inertia that can plague even the strongest teams. There’s an inspiring anecdote about how a beverage company in need of new packaging ideas invited a boat designer, rainwater management expert, sculptor and water-park manager to help brainstorm with the creative team. The fresh blood generated plenty of new concepts.

Outsmart Your Instincts is a savvy blend of psychology and business by three smart authors. Upbeat and smart, it’s a book that’s filled with new ideas that are innovative in themselves. If you’re looking for approaches to innovation, or for ways to galvanize a creative team, this is a welcome resource.

To learn more, visit Ideas To Go.

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About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her "beat" is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.