How to be smarter than a rat

A few days ago I woke to the sound of scampering feet in the attic, sighed, did the research, and bought a dozen T-Rex baits.

The instructions were clear: Lay the traps for a few days without setting them or baiting them.

Rats are smart enough to avoid novel objects in the environment when there is no prior record in their brains (or a negative experience). 

Our brains haven’t evolved that much after all. Whenever we encounter a new idea or a change, it takes less than a second for our brains to compare the new experience with our prior records. If there’s no match, the intuitive response is to reject the new stimulus. 

Here’s how we can be smarter than a rat. Don’t avoid the “trap.” Wait 90 seconds before reacting. Train yourself and your team to respond with a neutral “that’s interesting.” or “let’s thing about that” then start to think about ways in which it could work.

Make this a best practice; it’s one of the components of Google’s “psychologically safe” teams, in which no idea is immediately judged. 

During the 90 seconds, gather from the team ideas why it could work, or part of the idea that could work, no judgment allowed.

Your final decision can go either way. All you have to do is to fight off your instinctual response to discard novel stimuli before your “new brain” has a chance to evaluate them. 

This one small switch should make a big difference in psychological safety and trust, as well as to generate a whole bunch of useful ideas.