26 March 2007

Achieving the undefined goal

Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we've already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we're going, but we will know we want to be there.
-- Bruce Mau, "An Incompletel Manifesto for Growth"

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

-- Albert Einstein

Sometimes its good to just take the path with no goal in sight.

When was the last time you deliberately tried to achieve something you had no clue about? It kind of goes against the idea of setting a goal since very often you're told that one of the keys to good goal-setting is having a clearly defined target. With that clearly defined target, you then think about how to connect from where you are to where you want to be. Think of it as an equation. You have where you currently are and you have where you want to be. The unknown is how to get there, right?

What if we played around with the variables a bit? Let's say we know where we currently are and say we know the path to take, but we don't know the outcome. At this point you may be wondering if I'm suggesting that you just take a random path or something and the answer is yes. Imagine you took a random bus and decided to get off where ever the bus ended its route. You're basically going with the process with no goal in mind. You're bound to see something new and realize something you never noticed before. For example, the bus may take a different road you never considered or you may stumble upon some place you didn't even know existed! Voila! Instead of being bored of the same ol' same ol', you've discovered a freshness that you never would have if you had first thought of "Where do I want to go?" (again, asking yourself that only limits yourself to places that you already know about).

Taking Einstein's lovely quote as an example "Imagination is more important than knowledge". Knowledge is really what we know now while imagination is what we don't know or may only know later. And to imagine means we explore areas freely without necessarily expecting to achieve something. This way of thinking can be applied to any scenario, be it trying to design a new logo for a company or simply trying to come up with a new business strategy. Any lateral thinking book such as Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius or Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step (Perennial Library) will say that the best and freshest ideas come when you try to connect to objects that are completely unrelated. They'll also tell you that you need to play around with your thinking techniques and one such method is to play around with the variables involved in your process. Algebra is finally useful!

So as of today, give it a shot. It's only the beginning of the week so there are a lot of opportunities to go with the path and see where it leads you. For all you know, you'll come across a better path to the same goal you've been achieving all this time. If you're playing an instrument, try a random style of music for a week and see what happens. If you're a designer, turn you logo upside down and work from there. If you work in an office, wear slippers while sitting at your desk and see if that makes a difference. If you're driving, listen to a different radio station. The key is to do something where you're not sure why you're doing it or what you're going to get out of it.

Oh, I just had to point this out. Do draw the line between achieving the undefined goal and achieving the stupid goal. Telling yourself to juggle knives to see what happens isn't exactly a wise idea. Juggling plastic knives on the other hand...

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