Translator: Michele Gianella
Reviewer: Elisabeth Buffard Sometimes, easy means difficult. Have you ever been assigned an easy task, which for you is actually
very difficult to perform, and maybe for nobody else? That is when you experience frustration. I have experienced that
when I started taking singing lessons, and my teacher told me
to breathe with my diaphragm. That’s easy, it’s our natural breath,
but actually very difficult to do, and it’s a secret of the great singers. It’s similar to what happens when a boss comes into a meeting
and tells you to think out of the box. Come on, give me your creative ideas. Think out of the box. I want to hear that. I need innovation. Easy, simple, but actually
very hard to do. You need to practice. You need to know how to get
out of the box, where to go, and how to come back inside the box,
because that’s where we live. We actually live inside our boxes. I want to ask these questions. I asked those questions to myself. This presentation is a little journey
through my answers. I hope that some of these
will resonate with yours. The first thing is to ask, why. Why should you really go out of the box? Because inside the box, we feel safe. We agree with everybody else. And when we go out,
we risk our reputation. We worked so hard
for a lifetime to build it up, why should we risk it? Is this something which is a luxury,
that only a few people can do, or is it really a necessity? Why? Think of our lives today. We are really a part of a network. We are nodes in a network. We share information in a real time, and we, in the end,
all possess the same information. That’s the end of it,
and that is a scary thought. If we all possess the same information, what makes a difference between ourselves? Where does our dignity
as human beings lie? It really depends on what we generate
with that common shared information. To think creatively, to go out
of the box, is not a luxury. It’s a necessity for us,
and for our dignity as human beings. Which box are we talking about? We must have a clear definition, so that we are really talking
about something specific. It’s not our mind;
we cannot think out of our minds. It’s a boundary within our minds. The boundary between what we know, and what we haven’t still,
or yet, thought about. What is our mind? What is our knowledge structure? It’s an emergent phenomenon
out of the complex mechanism, which is the brain. We start with initial conditions,
our genetic heritage. We have boundary conditions,
the environment. We have indirect experience, years and years spent
in school and University to learn what other people have thought, what other people have discovered, what other people have created. Then, we have our own direct experience, our successes, our failures
that really make what we are. All of this builds the anthill
within which we live, and we live very well in that. Whatever we think inside that anthill,
that box, we feel safe. Whatever is outside, it’s invisible to us. We don’t know what it’s outside. That is why it’s so risky,
because nobody else knows. We are faced with something
which is necessary to our dignity, but actually it’s very difficult to do. How do we go out of the box?
How do we do that? What are the mechanisms? Do we need to wait for an apple
to fall on our heads, or are there some specific techniques? Reality is out there
for us to perceive it. It’s beautiful. You see these flowers. We have a lot of ideas,
which is our convergent information, the dominant ideas. Whenever we need to think
about an area, a focused area, we have ideas on how things should be. We have requirements,
we have specifications. We know how things are, because that’s the way
they always have been. But if we want to go out of the box, we need to add something more,
a little spice, something which goes beyond
the convergent information. Something wrong, something absurd, something which apparently
is not relevant, something which takes us far. This is what we call
divergent information. We need a little bit
of that divergent information to cross the borders within our minds, from what we know
to what we haven’t yet thought about. This is the essential mechanism
that is necessary, and it takes us to a place
where we don’t really know where to go. We are suspended. It’s like the middle game in chess. Where do you go
once you’re out of the box? You have no preset direction. It’s really a potential situation that brings us to a feeling
that we should immediately go back. This does not make any sense. Let’s go back to safe place.
Let’s go back inside the box. That’s a temptation
that we need to resist. We need to value long thinking. Normally,
we talk about brilliant thinking, fast thinking, deep thinking, but here we’re talking
about something different, long thinking. What does that mean? It’s some thought that takes us far. It’s as if you were reading poetry
or listening to music. You don’t judge the single notes. You don’t judge the single words. It’s the ensemble that gives you
a feeling, and takes you far. We must do the same thing
with our concepts. We need to go far. We can use association of ideas, combination of ideas,
extraction of principles, and application of those principles to areas where they were
never applied before. We need to be open-minded.
We need to be fluent. Look for alternatives,
and not for the correct answer. Because when you think creatively,
there’s no single correct answer. There are many possible alternatives. Suppose now that we are lucky. We land upon a new idea in our travel, in the exploration out of the box. What is the value of that? How do we assess the value of a new idea? It’s very difficult if it’s really new,
because you’ve never seen that before. Nobody else has seen that before. It’s as if we landed on a new planet,
totally undiscovered territory. It’s difficult to understand
the value of something new. First of all, because we don’t feel
entitled to be inventors. Who am I to be the generator
of that new idea? Probably this has been
thought about before. If this is correct, somebody else
would have done it before me. These are all natural mechanisms
with which we kill our own ideas. We have to resist that. We have to look for the match
between the new idea and our initial drive, our initial focus, or evaluate the idea per se,
for its own value and maybe see that that’s something
that solves another problem, which it was not yours. Serendipity happens all the time. We just need to have the eyes to see that, to notice the difference. Ok, but we are social animals. We live in an environment, so to think out of the box,
bring in new ideas, is going to challenge that environment. When is it a good idea
to challenge everybody around you in your working environment? You have a boss. You don’t really want to upset him or her. When is it a good idea
to think out of the box? First of all, if the environment
punishes mistakes, you will never be really tempted
to go out of the box. You will remain safely
in a known environment. If you want to stimulate
an environment which is creative, you need to allow the existence
of divergent information. You need to allow
irrelevant information to come in. You have to mix and match
different disciplines. You have to use metaphors
in the organization. Only in that case,
you will allow the environment to be really prone
to the generation of new ideas. I want to end my talk
with a little experiment. We wanted to do this
interactively with you, but the time is scarce. I have indeed prepared a little thing, but if you believe me, and to be honest, this has been generated
in the space of few minutes. The generation of ideas,
this travel outside of the box, is something which happens very fast. Where should we experiment? Let’s say that we want to generate
new ideas about TEDx Conferences. We are here, so that’s a focused area
which is very clear to all of us. Let’s start from the convergent
information about TEDx Conferences. What is needed to make
an excellent, good TEDx conference? You need the brilliant speakers
that will come up. You need an excellent theme. You need fast
speaker to speaker transitions. You need grand settings. The list can go on, and all I’m saying
is things that you already know. This is all convergent information, safe. I’m not generating anything new.
I’m inside the box. Now I want to go out, so I apply a divergent modifier to any of these convergent elements. Start from the last one for example,
the grand setting. A divergent modifier,
for example, is to exaggerate. Bring it to the limit. Instead of thinking
of a TEDx conferences in a theater, think of a TEDx Conference in a stadium. Does this make any sense, in a stadium? Very difficult to organize,
even more difficult than in a theater, and how do you fill the place? How do you fill the stadium? It’s too difficult.
It doesn’t make any sense. I’m tempted to reject that idea. But then I move, and I say, ok, maybe the stadium
is already filled with people. From that, you can get the idea of having a TEDx Conference
at half-time of football matches, a network of speeches which happens
at half-time of football matches. Good idea, bad idea?
I leave it for you to assess. Take another element:
good speakers, brilliant speakers. That’s the most fundamental element
of a TEDx Conference. Let’s take that away. We eliminate the good, brilliant speakers. Does this make any sense?
No, we’re out of the box. Does this lead to anything useful? I could say that,
OK, I don’t need the speakers, but I need the speeches,
the talks, the scripts. From this comes the idea of one speaker delivering
the speech of somebody else. We exchange speakers. So it’s a cooperative TEDx Conference. Maybe we have duets on stage,
instead of a single element, or we have people that speak about, somebody has this topic. In that way we have
one advantage at least. We take away the element of the ego. There’s no ego anymore, if you’re speaking
with somebody else’s script. These are just examples, just examples, to show you that it’s possible
and not too hard, actually, to think out of the box. I hope this journey, in a way,
was interesting for you, and now you want to do more of that. Thank you very much for your attention. (Applause)