DEFINITION: Innovation forms from seeing things invisible on the subconscious level.
When we see the subconscious needs of people, even needs that they have no clue about, we have a great opportunity for innovation.
This shares the same sentiment as being culturally aware and being able to manage uncertainty in cultural complexities.
A well-known Japanese cleaning agent company Kao has a research centre that specifically observes people’s daily household behaviour day after day.
By repeatedly observing the behaviour, stimulants that we do not normally experience start coming through into the researcher’s subconsciousness.
For example, the researchers closely watch people washing dishes and scrubbing bathrooms. By countlessly observing them, they eventually start being bothered by something that had been buried in their subconscious level.
“Why is he scrubbing the bathtub so hard?”, “Won’t she have a backache later working like that?” These kind of thoughts start to move to the conscious level. They observe further, then, they may think, “Maybe we should take a dirt sample from the bathtub and analyse the components, perhaps we can make a better washing solution….”. A hypothesis is formed. The rest is putting that into action by collecting samples, analysing and testing out a new washing solution.
This is the birth of innovation from subconsciousness. This is the moment that tangible subconscious needs become evident.
When people working in culturally diverse workplaces feel bothered about SOMETHING, or feel SOMETHING is not quite right, it is an immense opportunity for innovation. This is when a culturally diverse team needs to clarify what is going on, dig deeper and analyse discrepancies between what they think and what they experience. It is worth exploring what is happening on the subconscious level. Explore a new innovative approach.
At a glimpse, things may appear useless to the solution we are seeking.
A culturally diverse team working on a project was not working as a team. For some reason they were not connected. They were having a dialogue session about what was not working. Lots of things were brought up: the communication channel is not structured, vision is lost, decision-making process is slow, work is not coordinated well, etc. Then, one person suddenly said, “Why do they (a certain cultural group) always drag their feet and look down when they walk?”. Everyone looked up and looked at each other. He went on, “They look like they are always tired and reluctant to do the work that I ask them to do.” With this seemingly useless statement, we explored how they felt about it and went on to discuss cultural differences and how it affects management style and corporate culture. By the end of the session they were all together analysing and finding their own way to work more effectively together.
The mechanism of the subconscious world is closely linked to innovation. Only humans innovate. There was once a person who saw a rock and wooden stick and had an “Ah ha” moment. He invented a spear. A new concept.
At a glimpse, things may appear useless but when we go and dig deeper, there is treasure.
It is important that we do not stop because we feel bothered about something but to take the advantage of the opportunity and explore the world of the subconsciousness. You may be surprised to find something that you did not expect.
Simple exercises to train ourselves to see invisible things
- Go to places that you have never been to and interact with people you normally don’t interact with. Keep record of something that bothered you or you noticed. Then read that once a day until you have a “Ah ha” moment.
- Watch foreign films without subtitles. Watch the film a few times if you can, try to make sense of what is happening. Check on your feelings, how you feel. Frustrating and think it is a waste of time? Anything you noted? What bothers you?
- Leave your mobile at home. Get on the first bus that comes at the nearest bus stop. Get off at the last stop. Then try to get back by asking people. Keep a record of the interaction and how you feel: Frustrated? Impatient? Enjoy the interaction? Found people rather nice? Feel the sensation?
Managing uncertainty is one of the crucial intercultural competences. It is about a person seeing the uncertainty and complexity as an opportunity for personal development. (Intercultural Readiness by Ursula Brinkmann and Oscar van Weerdenburg 2014 palgrae macmillan).
Uncertainty and Complexities of the world is often a popular media topic. We must be living in the most exciting part of history. We absolutely have a good chance to come up with a once in century innovation.
Rika Asaoka, See Me See You training facilitator for Multicultural Futures harmonises and unifies people in the workplace and communities. She provides interactive workshops, trainings, facilitation and mediation on Intercultural Effectiveness. Her facilitation style is known to leave a lasting impression on participants. Also as an Intercultural Readiness Check Licensee, Rika is certified to use the IRC, a powerful internationally recognised tool for improving intercultural effectiveness.
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