I am currently reading The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity. The author, Matt Miller is a former White House aide during the Clinton administration and a contributing editor at Fortune. The premise of the book is that there are a number of dead ideas that we as citizens and elected officials deal with every day. The six that he discusses in detail are:
- Our kids will earn more than we do
- Free trade is always good, no matter who gets hurt
- Employers should be responsible for health coverage
- Taxes hurt the economy
- Schools are a local matter
- Money follows merit
In a remarkably non-partisan way, Miller describes the historical basis of these ideas and how world events have overtaken them. He then prescribes some ways to change our national discussion on each of these ideas.
Dealing with dead ideas is not only on the national agenda. Imagine yourself in a room with colleagues and a moderator. You are trying to solve a vexing business problem. The moderator urges each attendee to “think outside the box”. Even with all of the brainstorming techniques available, it is exceedingly difficult to break through our ingrained thought processes.
Essentially, humans use shortcuts in critical thinking. These shortcuts are called experience. If we have burned our fingers on a hot stove, we learn that we shouldn’t touch the stove. But what happens when the environment changes? If we use an induction cooker, since the range does not generate heat, you can safely touch the stove.
It’s the same in our businesses. Think about how often we say “Oh, we can’t do a fixed bid” or “We have to offer this product in 30 different sizes”. What old baggage is holding us up from even thinking about potential solutions?
What dead idea can you challenge today?