Levitating Frogs

19912276_mAt a recent networking event for entrepreneurs, rather than asking yet another question about each other’s business, each attendee was asked to tell the group what they liked to do in their spare time. For the most part, the answers were uniformly similar, and sad.

Every entrepreneur at the table was pretty much stumped by the question. Everyone was superbly equipped to expound on some product or service they offered. No one was prepared to reveal what they like to do when they weren’t working on their business – because they were always working on their business.

Dedication is a wonderful thing. Hard work is admirable. However, is total dedication simply obsessive behavior or is it necessary, especially when first starting your business? Can obsessive, unrelenting, all-consuming attention to your business be counterproductive?

Being the most knowledgeable in your field is obviously a good thing. Being seen as dedicated is commendable, but, in the long run, it can lead you astray.

Have you ever been ruminating on a problem for days or weeks and suddenly, when you aren’t thinking about it the answer comes to you? Why is it that all your focus, note taking and planning can’t crack the nut, but the resolution pops into your head when you don’t expect it? It’s because that’s how our brain works.

Our brains take in all the information we’re exposed to and, over hours, days, or even weeks, it eventually sorts it into relatable categories. It then files the information away until something triggers us to recall it, even if, or especially if, we’re not thinking about it.

The other piece of the puzzle is the type of information we absorb. If we only take in one subject, our thinking, or our approach to problem solving, will never evolve. We will never think “outside the box.”
Andre Geim has won both a Nobel Prize and an Ig Nobel. The second award is given to scientists for experiments so outlandish that they “first make people laugh, and then make them think.” Part of the process Geim uses is to encourage his fellow scientists and students to look at their work through the lens of a branch of study, which does not reflect their field of expertise. By doing this, he’s found that the very lack of knowledge allows them to attempt experiments that “experts” would not try because they “know” that it would never work.

Let’s relate this back to levitating frogs and entrepreneurs. Dr. Geim was able to levitate the frog using the incredibly weak magnetic properties of water when others wouldn’t even try it because they “knew” it wouldn’t work.

As entrepreneurs, we need to encourage interest and study outside of our “field of expertise” for the same reasons. When we push our thinking beyond our comfort zone, then the real fun begins.
So, put down the pencil, take your fingers off the keyboard, or whatever it is you normally do, and see if you can levitate a frog or two.

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