In my quest to just keep filling mind with great thinking and approaches to design and innovation techniques, I came across an intriguing book that caught my eye in the local Goodwill book section. Titled “The innovation killer” by Cynthia Rabe it raised my curiosity enough to buy it. In this book, which should really be titled “Zero Gravity Thinking”, she describes the need for teams, that are working on new and creative projects, that require innovative thinking to introduce certain personality types she refers to as zero gravity thinkers.
A zero gravity thinker is someone whom Edward De Bono would call a lateral thinker, or IDEO would refer to as a T-shaped person that has a deep expertise in one area of knowledge, but also is following a broad interest in different fields of study or knowledge these personality types when mixed with established teams can often reinvigorate the stagnation of ideas with new perspectives and considerations. Rabe, goes on to describe the importance of someone whom would be called an outsider, that can be more open to new ideas, has self confidence to know what they are talking about and a willingness to introduce an existing team to new approaches and consideration, most likely from another field of knowledge. The zero gravity thinker is someone whom the team can collaborate with, that most likely is not an expert in their field, but probably has a basic understanding of their knowledge space, but does have an expertise in a similar or different field that has similarities to the problem space. A good example might be a team of biologists introducing a zero gravity thinker that is a chemist.
The value she describes is very compelling, and considering that companies like P&G and Microsoft hire external agencies like IDEO and Ziba to brainstorm new ideas and improvements to existing products reinforces the idea that external thinkers can work out well in innovating with existing teams. IDEO of course is the most recognized company in the World for innovative team thinking, and the products and services they design are proof it works. Their teams are often described as a mix of great thinkers from different fields of knowledge.
The concepts she introduces are not new, but the book is a great summary of the concepts and definitely describes the zero gravity thinker concisely. It is a good read and nice introduction to the concepts of this new style of problem solving.