The Biggest Enemy Of New Thinking Is Old Thinking

It is common to fear what it not yet understood or proven. This fear comes hardwired in humans as a survival mechanism. People need each other and will forgo any individual thought or action in order to belong to a group.

This was more obvious to observe when there were far less people occupying the earth and your tribe was more essential and recognizable. With over seven billion of us here now we are better able to survive without conforming to all the norms of a specific groups. Instead we spread ourselves out and belong to many groups at the same time and each has its own norms. Our country of birth, city, college, gender, race, age, education, occupation, income level, social circle, favorite sports team and so on. Our fit and hierarchy within each group is based on our ability to adhere to its norms and convince or recruit others to join. Strength is in numbers — power is in hierarchy.

More options has created this fragmentation and given rise to individualism. These personal freedoms are enjoyed most when we are alone or in small groups. But new thinking and actions have little ripple affect from these groups. It is only when we are with our larger more established groups that we have more collective influence, but the freedom of individual expression is subdued.

Conversely, a large group struggles with its ability to change and adapt. Consider a startup biotech company versus a fortune 500 medical company. The ability for the larger company to act swiftly to new ideas, trends or opportunities is stifled by their size and bureaucracy. They are less likely to accept new thinking and ideas because they would challenge the security and power of the group. There are many people to look out for. But more importantly are the people who figured a way to elevate themselves in the hierarchy of the group are the greatest resistance to change because their position could be most threatened.

This is why people will flat out deny and war with others who present new ideas. The validity of the idea is not what’s in question — it’s the challenge it poses to the current norms. As new thinkers we get sidetracked debating ideas and their merit. Using logic, reason, facts and data to support new claims is well and good, but they miss the biggest hurdle — existing norms.

New ideas and individualism have significant obstacles when it comes to attaining critical mass. They often need to come together and build larger homogenized groups of people and ideas in order to spread their ideas and influence. But as this process occurs the group becomes susceptible to the problems of established thinking, the protection of hierarchy and entrenched norms.

Both new and old thinking have value — for they are points along the same life cycle. They don’t need to war with each other, but instead find ways to understand each others positions, fears, wants and strengths. If you find yourself fighting to get your new ideas heard more facts and speaking louder are not the answers. Aim to first understand your audience and their needs and fears. Stop making logical arguments, presenting data and telling people or yourself what should be or is happening. Those in the established groups will not hear it until you present an opportunity to belong to your new idea in a way they can value more than their current/old ones. They must see an opportunity to grow and benefit in some personal way in order to listen and change. New ideas are rarely the problem; it’s their presentation.