Great Minds Think … Differently

We’ve all heard the proverb, “Great minds think alike.” So I did a double take the first time I read the motto, “Great minds think differently.”

It’s the motto for the school for children with learning disabilities that my smart and funny son with dyslexia attended. Here, they celebrate the powerful potential different ways of thinking can bring about. Leonardo DaVinci, Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, and Charles Schwab are among the many examples of accomplished people with dyslexia.

This unique spin on a classic cliché sparks an element of surprise that commands attention and provokes one’s imagination. “Great minds think differently.”

Come to think of it, it’s true – at least in my innovation work. Great minds, thinking alike may ease decision-making. Yet I’ve seen the most innovative ideas come from teams made up of members with diverse experiences, thinking styles, and approaches.


Four Think-Differently Steps to Team Innovation

Next time you need your team to think differently and innovate, try one or more of these four suggestions:

  1. Invite a newbee, such as someone from another business unit or a new hire. Their naïve perspectives are a plus when attempting to innovate. Lacking preconceived ideas of what “can’t” be done, their input can help challenge assumptions that limit a team’s thinking.
  2. Hire the misfit. It’s comfortable to hire those who fit right in and think like the rest of the team. Yet, this practice may hinder your team’s ability to innovate. Knowing this, NASA actively recruits dyslexic engineers, known for sparking the discovery of breakthrough solutions by approaching problems differently.
  3. Bring in an outsider, such as experts directly and indirectly related to the topic. For example, if you’re working on a food innovation, bring in a chef, as well as a pan manufacturer or a gardener. In search of a new hair-color product? Bring in not only a hair stylist, but also an interior designer with expertise in the use of color, or an architect with an understanding of structure and form.
  4. Co-create with a panel. For example, noo view® thinkers from noo F/X, whom we’ve hand selected for their ability to think creatively and differently, as great minds do. Most of these panel members are also non-linear thinkers. Because they don’t work with your products everyday, even if they may use them as consumers, they bring to the table fresh perspectives as consumers, small business owners, medical professionals and others. Perspectives you may only encounter when co-creating with a noo view® or other type of panel assembled to focus on your initiative, in partnership with your team.

Recently, my husband asked my son whether he wished he didn’t have dyslexia. “No,” my son replied. Despite the many challenges dyslexia presents for him, he sees that thinking differently is also part of what makes him great.

Nancy Francis is principal of noo F/X – a top innovation-consulting agency that helps companies take their idea generation to the next level. Learn more at
© 2016 noo F/X, LLC

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