Networking and associating are closing the list of 5 discovery skills identified as an important asset of any great innovator. We already talked about observing, questioning and experimenting in our previous articles. In total there are 25 tips and tricks ready to apply in order to develop these fantastic abilities.

NETWORKING – more precisely ‘social networking’ is an activity of creating connections with other individuals based on friendship, common interest, relationships of beliefs, knowledge, etc. As we are all part of a global society, once we connect with 1 person, we are significantly multiplying the number of potential future networks (we connect our network with his/hers). Most often we connect with somebody similar to us but networking of innovators is contrariwise based on differences. Therefore we will present five tips on how to learn the art of networking with individuals from coming from diverse backgrounds.

Home safe home: walking in the streets and speaking to complete strangers sound a bit strange and this is why you should start with people you know well (family and close friends). Even if you think you might know them very well, there are always hidden interests to discover. Find out in what they are different to you. They might have hobbies you have never tried, they could finish studies in specific area completely unknown to you, they could visit country you have never been to. Once you find these differences, apply your questioning skills and learn as much as you can!

Baby sitting: taking care of children or even elderly people can be a great source of inspiration. These individuals live in completely different reality than you and everyday deal with issues you might not even think about (child: how to reach the highest shelf of the fridge?; grandpa: how to find my glasses when I don’t see without them?). Spending time with them will allow you to re-discover the world and see it from their perspective.

Go for a party!: Birthday parties, friend gatherings, family celebrations, night clubbing, weddings, networking drinks, after work parties are the place to be, at least once a month! Online networking is good but real face to face is million times better. Golden rule is to: GET TO KNOW 1 NEW PERSON WITH WHO YOU HAVE NOTHING IN COMMON! Look for people who come from different school, work in other industry, speak foreign langue, or just wear different type of clothes or drink something else than you.

Try speed dating: even if you are in the relationship, you can try this for fun. The idea is to meet many new people in a short period of time and discover who they are, what they like doing, what is so great or strange about them. Look for surprises! Once you discover something new, different and surprising, write it down. You can make a list of Top 10 strangest things you have learnt about them.

Travel: it may be a trip around the world, or visiting another continent, new country or just a city right behind the corner :-). In different places you will meet different people who act differently and think differently! Observe, experiment, ask questions… and then create your first TRAVEL DIARY.

ASSOCIATING – means connecting (someone or something) with something else in one’s mind. In psychology, this method is called as well Pavlovian association (Pavlovian conditioning) where two concepts are associated when the experience of one leads to the effects of another, due to repeated pairing (example: tree -> apple -> fruit -> vegetable -> soup). Association itself is no mystery and does not produce novel ideas. The hidden secret of creative people lies in the combination of the association and other thinking methods.

Survey showed that each creative individual mastered different discovery skills but all of them were strong in association! Innovators can associate seemingly unrelated questions, problems or ideas and cultivate new insights. They succeed because they use creative thinking instead of deductive one. Deductive thinking is based on the past experience, on verification of hypothesis, logics and laws. Creative thinking includes thinking methods such as association, analogy, crushing and combination, or day dreaming. Our 5 tips on how to develop associating skills of innovators are based on the combination of all these methods of creative thinking.

Play with words: word association game is the best thing to do when you are bored but still with the group of people. For example sitting in the car and going for a looong trip. Idea is to choose random word and then find new word associated with the previous one. Next player does the same and this creates string of words created by group thinking. You may set limits, e.g. game ends when you reach 500 words, or you play till you have fun.

Become analogy designer: developing new products can become your free-time activity. Product designers use often analogical reasoning in order to create novel prototypes. The idea is to use available knowledge and information about one thing and apply it on something else. Often we use characteristics of one industry/domain and apply them in the design of products in unrelated industry/domain. Example: Catalan architect Gaudi was inspired by the nature’s forms (organic shapes of plants, flowers, trees, mushrooms, etc.) when designing patterns to be used in his architectural projects like cathedral La Sagrada Familia.

Do it yourself!: building something ourselves at home is beautiful hobby. It is up to you how part A will be connected to part B, what function, shape or color it will have. Crushing and combining is easy as soon as like taking one complex system (for example: functionless radio), decompose it into small parts and then combine these parts with something else (for example: chair) in order to create new product (possible result: chair playing music when you sit on it). This is closely related to desire of testing and experimenting.

Live up side down: inversion is another creative thinking method based on the idea to turn everything up side down. Try living up side down for 3 days. Start today with lying on the bed and observing your room up side down. Then you can cook cake up side down and try how it tastes. You can wear your T-shirt and jeans vice versa and watch people’s reactions; try walking backwards at least for 5 minutes and think how is it different. When taking bus or train you can take the seat heading to the backside and observe people looking the opposite direction. Or you can play negation-game: simply negate/turn up side down everything you want to do or say.

Dream during the day: imagine you won a lottery, what would you do with all that money? If you could go for 2 weeks vacation to any place in the world, where it would be? How should look like your future job assignment? If you were a president, what would be the 1st thing to do? If you met the queen of England, what would you tell her? If you were boss of your boss, how would you treat him? etc. These are only few examples of day dreaming starters. Thanks to such an exercise you learn to see things from a different perspective (no matter it is imaginary – this is only training). Moreover day dreaming helps you to imagine impossible things and this is the first step of their realization!

This was the last tip on how to develop 5 discovery skills of innovator. Observing, questioning, experimenting and networking will help you to collect various information, inputs, and inspiration from diverse sources or people with different backgrounds. And association will enable you to process and use them in a creative way. We are sure that outcome will be original! Now it’s only up to you to start working on it :-).