Can "Thinking Differently" be learned? Harvard Business Review:
Reams of relevant research (including our own) proves.... [that] [i]nnovators excel at connecting the unconnected. They engage in associational thinking.
But neither Steve Jobs nor Apple nor any other high-profile innovator or company has a corner on the think-different market. In fact, our study of over 5,000 entrepreneurs and executives shows the opposite: almost anyone who consistently makes the effort to think different can think different.
How? Here's one suggestion:
When associations don't come naturally, try forcing them to surface unnaturally — by shaking things up randomly. For example, try the Idea Generator app, which randomly combines three words together when you shake your smart phone. Shake it again and three more random words show up.
Sure it's a pretty simple idea, but one with merit elsewhere. Shaking things up may require seeking out differences in opinion, in the choice of television shows and books, and with our time. Approach that new person, even with it seems daunting (take heart, I'm the worst about that).
Not only does diversity in the wild future-proof the whole by making it healthier and increasing its odds of survival, but diversity in thought and practice confers real and tangible benefits on individuals too, according to "Learn How to Think Different(ly)."
Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that if adults practice associational thinking long enough, the task no longer exhausts but energizes them. Like most skill-based activities, if we slog away at it and practice over and over again, the task becomes not life taking but life giving. And that's when the most creative ideas pop out.