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The Wonder of New Ideas

Understanding how awe can be a framework for rethinking innovation

We often associate awe with an experience of vastness, like standing at the Grand Canyon. Or the introduction of a new idea in such conflict with our previous understanding that it catalyzes awe. In recent years, science is helping us understand the implications of awe. Psychologists Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt have codified how awe violates our normalized understanding of the world, provoking us to shift our mental models to accommodate, assimilate and adjust to a new experience.

Awe can catalyze the re-booting of the thinking structures we use to understand the world. As we seek new tools for leading cultural change, creating social impact and bringing fresh currency to the improvement of social systems, awe might just be a secret weapon.

If the innovation we seek is social in nature, it may not be a product, a service or a digital tool that we need to design. We may need to design cultures that seek, embrace and point toward awe as core operating systems of our organizations and communities. Innovation as a practice of awe aspires to exceed our current conception of the world. As I demonstrate in this chapter from Radical Curiosity, this type of sublime simplicity requires us to re-examine the very assumptions behind our current definition of innovation.—Seth Goldenberg

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