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Innovative breakthroughs come from people who are not afraid to challenge "the facts" and "the way it’s done in this industry." What if Columbus had never challenged "the fact" that the world was flat? What if Ted Turner had never challenged "the fact" that people only want to watch the television news at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.? What if Howard Schultz (founder of Starbucks Coffee Company) had never challenged "the fact" that people will only pay $1 for a coffee? If you would have been in a meeting with Columbus, Turner, or Schultz, what would have been your response to their ideas?

Given the turmoil in today’s marketplaces, the ability to challenge "the facts," as well as the ability to "unlearn" how things have always been done, are two fundamental skills for innovative thinking. To quote management and innovation guru, Peter Drucker, "If you want to do something new, you have to stop doing something old."

Old thinking may be covering true innovative potential. Old thinking, in this context, needs to be removed in order for new thinking and, as we like to say, the "seeds of innovation" to take root. Just as a gardener clears out old plants and weeds to cultivate the soil and make room for the sunlight to shine on new plants, we must clear out old thinking in order to make room for new thinking.

Today’s marketplace is forcing us to forget some of the old rules and shift to having a more open mind toward "the way things can and will be." Most of us would probably agree that the world—and especially the world of business—changed dramatically in September 2008. With all this turmoil also comes opportunity. New customer viewpoints and new customer needs. New employee needs and new employee expectations. Are you able and willing to weed out your old thinking and capitalize on these new needs? Are you able and willing to innovate in ways that truly make a difference and are meaningful?

Blog Co-Authors:

Dr. Alex Pattakos is the author of Prisoners of Our Thoughts ( and Elaine Dundon is author of The Seeds of Innovation (