Seeking Out the New

The New Should Be Better Than The Old

There have been studies which indicate that there is a major difference between young minds and older minds – apparently, we are born curious, with wide open minds. We are genetically and chemically designed to be open to new experiences from the moment we are born, and as we get older, and as we get more experienced, we close ourselves off to new ideas and new experiences.

As humans, we are deep learners at our core, designed from the ground up to be able to observe, ingest and analyze our surroundings from day one. We may be physically weak little things which require physical protection (our newborn even biologically resemble their fathers at birth, so that they may recognize them as their kin, even if they look more of a blend later), but as babies and children, we are designed to seek out the new and different, and learn.

If you think about it, our ability to reason, observe and think is really the thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. So, if we are born learning, inquisitive sponges, why do we seem to lose (or simply suppress that capability) in later life?

As we get older, we tend to compare our previous experiences with our current experiences – almost like a bubble sort – where we take this current new experience, compare it to all previous experiences, and then slot it into our sorted list of experiences.

We don’t automatically give the new experience any more weight simply because it’s new because we have this constantly increasing the set of past experiences to compare it against. This is one of the reasons that we dismiss previously tried failed ideas as ones that should never be tried again, simply because they failed in that specific time and place.

However, just because they failed in that place in the past, do not mean that they will fail in the here and now. To remain innovative, disruptive and forward thinking, we must look at all new ideas which we encounter with the same kind of weight we did as children – the open-minded practice or be weighing the new as more important than the old.

As our brains actively chemically cease automatically processing “the new” as more important simply because it’s new, we must rewire our own brains to do that ourselves.

Therefore, to be and stay innovative, as we grow older, we must consciously both regard anything “new” to us as having more weight that we would normally have, and secondly, be open to the fact that while a previously tried idea may have failed at a specific time and place, there is no reason that it will fail again now.

I’m personally the object of something like that – one of my earlier startups, AdviceTrader, was too early, providing a similar service to Quora from 2000-2005. Had we started it later, or where able to raise funding, who knows where we would be. In short, we need to actively look at the new, no matter what we think of it, as more important than our collected experience to date, to remain innovative.

One of the hallmarks of ageism is that younger people accuse older ones of not being open to new ideas – we need to change that perception. So, when something new – or something that’s failed before – comes across your desk – try to look at it through a different lens.

Try to be a child again.