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How to Profit from Non-Conformity

By Steve Gillman, Author of Secrets of Lucky People

There is some evidence that more creativity results in more of what many would call luck. No real surprise here - more creative and new ideas obviously means more opportunities for good or "lucky" ideas to come about. But how do you become more creative?

There are actually many techniques for generating more creative ideas. Books on creative problem solving, for example, are full of these techniques. You can use them in a given situation for immediate results, or train yourself to use them habitually for a permanently more creative mind.

However, there is one important aspect of creativity that this lesson addresses. It is the tendency we have to conform, and how this stifles our creativity. Learn when and how to step outside the lines, and you will be far more creative, and therefore potentially luckier in life.

Conformity To The "Rules"

In 1999 Daniel Simons, from the University of Illinois, published a paper with C.F. Chabris, in the journal "Perception & Psychophysics." It was titled "Gorillas in Our Midst: Sustained Inattentional Blindness for Dynamic Events." It reported a simple experiment in which subjects watched a 30-second film of people playing basketball, to see if they noticed the guy in the gorilla suit on the court.

Richard Wiseman, the expert on luck and creativity, took the idea and ran with it. He showed the following film to many groups of people. In the film, three basketball players are dressed in white t-shirts, and three in black. The are playing a game, but in the middle of the film, a man in a gorilla suit walks into the middle of the court and beats his chest for the camera.

This is something very obvious, which most viewers would notice, right?

However, viewers were instructed to watch for and count the number of passes made by one team. They were focusing on that task, so when later asked for their totals, and then asked if they noticed anything unusual in the film, only a small percentage ever said yes.

In fact, when Wiseman introduced enough competitiveness to the process (for example, by pitting one side of the room against the other in a test of accuracy), the number of people who noticed the gorilla was as low as 5%.

This is an example of how "in the box" we can be when we're in a given situation. We stay within the normal "rules" for the situation. It is a useful part of our psychology. Too much awareness of everything else going on can interfere with concentration on the task at hand.

However, there are times when the task at hand is to think outside that box and see something new.

Thinking Outside The Box

The "box" is the normal way of doing things and looking at things. It is the assumptions that almost everyone involved is making. The best way to start thinking out of the box then, is to identify and challenge all the assumptions that make up thinking inside the box.

For example, one of the major liquor brands was faltering years ago, and they couldn't seem to boost their sales. Promotions, lowering the price, getting better shelf placement - these were the "in the box" solutions. Then someone challenged the assumptions, by asking "What if we stopped the promotions and just raised the price?"

The price was raised as an experiment, and sales soon doubled. As it turns out, some types of liquor are bought quite often as gifts. Buyers don't want to buy the most expensive one, but they also don't want to seem cheap, so they won't buy products that don't cost enough.

Now imagine what happens to your profit margins when you raise the price and double the sales. That's the power of thinking outside of the box.

Ways To Get Outside The Box

Challenging assumptions is a powerful and creative problem solving technique. The difficult part is to identify the assumptions. If you are designing a new motorcycle, write down assumptions like "speed matters," "it has to run on gas" and "it needs two wheels," not because you expect to prove these wrong, but because challenging these can lead to creative possibilities. Maybe the time has come for an electric three-wheeled motorcycle.

Another way to get to creative solutions is to "assume the absurd." This is either fun or annoying, depending on how open-minded you can be. All you do is start making absurd assumptions, then finding ways to make sense of them. The easiest way to do it is by asking "what if."

What if a carpet cleaning business was better off with half as many customers? It seems absurd, but work with it. Hmm...less stressful, perhaps. More profitable if each customer was worth three times as much. Is that possible? Commercial jobs that involve large easy to clean spaces (theaters, offices, convention halls) make more money in a day than houses, with fewer headaches. Focusing on getting those accounts could be the most profitable way to go - not so absurd.

Another way to more innovative ideas is to literally do your thinking out of the box. Get out of the house or the office. Park the car and walk around. New environments can stimulate new ideas.

Always look around at how others outside of your usual "circle" of friends and associates are doing things. On busses in Ecuador, salesmen put a product into everyone's hands and let them hold it while they do a sales pitch. Then you have to give back "your" product or pay for it. It is very effective. How could you use the principle in your business?

There was an experiment in creativity in which brainstorming sessions were done in two ways. The first set consisted of normal sessions. In the second set of sessions, one simple change was made. The participants were told to take their shoes off.

Consistently, people produced more ideas when their shoes were off. This is a neat little example of how just getting out of our normal routines can stimulate more creative thought.

Social Conformity

One of the things that stifles our creativity is our need to conform to the people around us. We tend to do what they are doing and think what they are thinking. There are certain expectations that are there, even when we aren't aware of them.

Of course there is good reason to conform most of the time. Singing while in a bookstore, refusing to shake hands, or certain other demonstrations of non-conformity probably won't give you any creative edge in life. We conform to most unspoken social "rules" because they benefit all of us.

On the other hand, there are other times when breaking the rules or not following the herd makes sense. If everyone goes to the closest check-out registers at the grocery store, you might get out faster by going to one further down. If most people are using credit cards and as a result are in financial trouble, you might do well to be a non-conformist.

Luck or opportunity is often where the crowd isn't. For example, many tourists here in Colorado like to pan for gold. Of course, they all go to the same easily-accessible places, so these places are don't have much gold left. Where would you have more luck looking for gold? Wherever the people don't go, of course.

When I was sixteen I hitchhiked across the country. This was back when hitchhiking was common. I came to one freeway entrance ramp and saw over 20 hitchhikers lined up with their thumbs out. As I walked past them I heard complaints about how long they had been waiting.

I just kept walking. A mile later, away from the crowd, there was room for a driver to pull over, and he didn't have to make a choice about who to pick up. I easily got a ride there - my reward for being a non-conformist.

Non-Conformity - The Lottery Example

Here's an example of how being a non-conformist can even increase your luck in the lottery. It is so common for people to bet on birthdays, that winning tickets with numbers below 31 (the days of the month) usually split the pot more ways. This means that each winner gets less money.

On the other hand, when the winning numbers are all over 32, fewer tickets have winning numbers. This means that the money is split fewer ways and each winning ticket is worth more. All numbers are equally likely to come up, so if you bet the numbers between 32 and 40, you have a better chance to win more money.

This doesn't make the lottery a good bet, by the way, but just a better bet. It is a great little example of how getting away from the crowd can be a creative way to improve your luck.

This articles is an excerpt from Secrets of Lucky People by Steve Gillman. Learn how to create your own luck with dozens of simple exercises which will make you the luckiest person you know.

Book of SecretsSteve Gillman is also the author of A Book of Secrets. Read Minds, Save Money, Boost Brainpower, Get Lucky, Find Treasure, Subliminally Persuade People, Buy Real Estate With No Money Down - And More!

A Book of Secrets
How To Read Minds, Save Money, Boost Brainpower, Get Lucky,
See The Real News, Find Treasure, Subliminally Persuade People,
Buy Real Estate With No Money Down - And That's Just The Beginning!
Learn more here...

 


Also by Steve Gillman: 70 Ways to Increase Your Brain Power

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