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Do This to Be as Successful as Henry Ford (Among Others)

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In a Journal of Physiology study, researchers found that kittens raised in a room painted with vertical lines versus those raised in a room with horizontal lines showed different brain development patterns as they matured into full grown cats. Like these kittens, our early environments as children have a lot to do with how our brains become hardwired as adults.

We grow up with certain mentalities, biases and indoctrinations that are tied to where, when and how we are raised. As a result, most people identify with a single mentality. Though, it of course has value, higher education further entrenches this mentality, imposing limitations on how we see the world. That’s why the saying goes, “you go from a B.S. to an M.S. (more of the same) to a Ph.D. (piled higher and deeper).”

Career paths are often similarly narrow-focused, but the real key to succeeding in business lies in breaking out of such limited thinking and bridging gaps between different mentalities. Think of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who very unusually bridged bodybuilding and the movie industry. From there, he bridged into politics. He was able to succeed in industries with different mentalities, values and metrics of success.

Henry Ford found his career success by applying the values of mass production to the automobile industry, essentially bridging two disparate fields. He rejected conventional production methods that were only available to the very wealthy and tried a radical new approach that democratized the automobile. Decades later, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak met at the Homebrew Computer Club, and together they merged their visions to revolutionize the computer industry with a do-it-yourself approach, which launched Apple. The evolution of Apple into the juggernaut it is today was a collaborative effort that bridged many disciplines and points of view.

This is the place where creativity lives and thrives. Thinking outside the box is not enough, because the way we think has been conditioned since birth, just like those kittens raised with striped walls. Thinking outside the box generally amounts to coming up with new thoughts while adhering to the same basic mentality.

Creativity is more than just new thoughts; it’s an entirely new way of thinking. Creativity finds its basis in the integration of two or even multiple mentalities. It amounts to a freedom of awareness.

It all comes down to paradigm identity. Paradigms are the thought and emotional systems that determine how you function. One’s entire worldview is determined then by the paradigm into which they have been indoctrinated. New thoughts are received and assimilated or rejected based upon that paradigm identity. Each paradigm then is not so much about new thoughts as it is an entirely new way of thinking—a completely unique way of observing, assimilating and interpreting information. It’s a rare individual who is capable of freely switching from one paradigm to another.

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Paradigm identity limits the operation of your business. It affects how you actually approach the production, organization and employee management of your business. Paradigm identity makes it difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend how the people you are dealing with even think, how they hear what you’re saying, how they feel about you and how they relate to you. How capable are team members of functioning in an environment based upon not their paradigm, but the paradigm of their employer?

Paradigm identity limits not only the internal operations of the company, but also how the company interfaces with their market. You cannot begin to construct a broad marketing approach when it is focused through the lens of a single paradigm belief system.

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Assuming that all people do, should or can view the world through your lens is called oblivion—not to mention a great way to go out of business. Hugely successful companies, like Apple, understand this and bridge the gap between multiple paradigms effortlessly with their ads as well as their products. Ask yourself how many companies out there inspire the same boundless enthusiasm from artists, scientists, athletes and casual consumers. Nike comes to mind; they’ve got something for everyone to “just do it.”

So how do you open yourself to new paradigms?

It requires a certain level of humility, for starters. Schwarzenegger had to take a step back from the mentality of the gym to integrate with that of Hollywood—he had to open himself up as a beginner after he’d been an expert in another field. Few people are willing or capable of doing that. It’s far more natural to look at another paradigm with judgment and aversion. Stepping off the high horse of one’s paradigm identity can be disconcerting. After all, it has provided a certain amount of stability, conviction and success.

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Do you want to be more successful in business? Assimilate paradigms. There will always be a learning curve, but like an English major embarking on a career in the sciences, over time the new way of functioning and the technical language become more comfortable. Eventually you start to understand, and the truth begins to resonate within your own being.

Instead of rejecting belief systems that contradict your own, find comfort within paradox. It’s not enough to live in one paradigm and understand another. Learn to resonate with the truth in more than one paradigm simultaneously; it provides deeper insight. Wisdom is aligning with the paradigm that best suits the moment. Creativity transcends paradigm identity.

How could Henry Ford look at a single part of a car and be able to visualize an assembly line rolling off hundreds of finished Model Ts? How could Apple hope to upend much larger companies with a stripped down approach to computer hardware? How does Nike market so well to so many diverse markets? They all have one thing in common: the ability to bridge multiple identity paradigms.