Mon 30 Mar 2015 | By:

How to Escape Prison By Asking the Wrong Questions: The 5 Innovator’s Skills (part 3)

How to Escape Prison By Asking the Wrong Questions

Riker: What I need is to get out of this cell. I’ve been locked in here, for days. You’ve controlled my every move.

You’ve told me what to eat, and what to think, and what to say, and then when I show a glimmer of independent thought, you strap me down! You inject me with drugs.

You call it a treatment!

Captor: You’re becoming agitated.

Riker: You bet I’m agitated! I may be surrounded by insanity, but I am not insane!

This is Commander Riker’s dilemma from Star Trek: TNG.

He’s struggling.

Why am I being punished for asking questions?

Could I be wrong about everything?

Is this for real?

At the end, he realizes it’s all an illusion.

He was right all along.

You and I face the same dilemma. Every day.

Because society is a drug.

They call it culture. They call it the normal and proper way of doing things.

And of course, the proper way is the best way. The honest way. The only way.

Well — they’re wrong.

Listen — you’re an entrepreneur.

Locked up somewhere in your mind is your greatest asset. A precious thing nobody can take from you.

Your individuality.

The personality that makes you unique.

Yet uniqueness is not easy to embrace. Matters not what kind of work you do. Most of the time, we’re content doing things others have done before.

All the more reason to steer out. To forge your own path.

Here’s how.


1) Actively develop your questions.

That’s right. You won’t chance upon The Final Question on your first go.

The thing about questions is you’re not just looking for their answers.

Your search is for more questions. Better, deeper, higher questions.

A powerful question calls into action all your mental assets.

In his book The Rainforest, Victor Hwang, CEO of T2VC and a key figure behind the Global Innovation Summit, states innovators should stand at the intersection of many diverse influences.

Richard Branson understood this when he founded Virgin Music. He bought an old castle and got diverse people in the entertainment industry to talk to each other.

A platform for developing questions.

Go where diverse people talk. Have the clear intention of leaving with version 3.0 of your initial question.


2) Create artificial constraints.

Yes, artificial. As in, created by a human – namely you.

Notice special cases. Focus in on them.

Specialization permits depth. Unnecessary details are killed off.

Instead of creating a full-fledged solution, see if you can get away with a skeleton product.

The key question behind PayPal used to be: can we build a digital currency, controlled by individuals? Then they noticed a special case: eBay users were avidly using their email payments system.

And the now-billion dollar unicorn changed its basic question to: how can we seamlessly transfer money between people?

That’s specialization.


3) Sense unexplored topics.

The hardest and most rewarding part of questioning.

Consider again Commander Riker up there. He was agitated.

Your task is to sense that agitation inside yourself. The part of you that wants to ask ridiculous, forbidden or even rude questions.

You and I are fortunate. We live in a time where it’s okay – even encouraged – to do this. It wasn’t always so.

Scientists tend to be good at this.

Einstein’s genius was not in the mathematics. It was in the way he questioned nature.

He realized that the relation between space and time is a scientific, experimental question. Not a mathematical one.

An unexplored topic, at the time.

And then, essentially, *boom* — you get relativity. Questioning at its finest.

No doubt he sensed that agitation.

When you sense it in yourself, you must listen to it.

Act on it.

You’re the only one who can do that.

You owe it – not just to yourself – but to all of us.

Consider it your way of paying for all the things you were given for free in life.

You’re an individual.

We need you to act like one.

What do you think? Join the conversation on Twitter!

About Harry Red

Harry is the founder and CEO of Infyrno, a startup that's laser-focused on accelerating innovation through technology. He's fanatical about learning, questioning things and most of all, taking action. Always wears a red shirt. Connect with him on Twitter.