Looking at Something Familiar, in a Different Way

Why do we do things the way we do them? Most companies in most industries have a kind of tunnel vision. They chase the same opportunities that everyone else is chasing, they miss the same opportunities that everyone else is missing. It’s the companies that see a different game that win big. The most important question for innovators today is: What do you see that the competition doesn’t see?

Innovation opportunities are often right in front of us —but they may involve objects or situations that are so familiar, so mundane, that we fail to pay any attention to them.

People fail to notice opportunities that may be right in front of them because they stop looking too soon. And it’s not just how long you look, but what you choose to notice: shifting our focus from objects or patterns in the foreground to those in the background.

Innovators could potentially spark new ideas and insights if they could somehow manage to look at the familiar—their own products, their customers, their work processes—as if seeing it for the first time. Adopting this view, business leaders and managers might be more apt to notice inconsistencies and outdated methods, as well as untapped opportunities.

For a change in perspective, it can be helpful to step back from everyday routines and habitual behaviors, and stop operating “on automatic pilot.” In a business context, this might involve injecting some element of newness into overly-familiar work routines — such as shaking up teams, changing schedules, or even just holding your meetings in a different and unusual place.

Summing-up: “Jamais vu”, is defined as a sense of eeriness and the observer’s impression of seeing a situation for the first time, despite rationally knowing that he or she has been in the situation before. In short, looking at something familiar, but in a different way.

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