I’ve always wondered did John Glover in the 1830s deliberately paint bendy trees or was that how he actually saw them? Were our jaggedy elbowed eucalypts so foreign to the eyes of the new settling English painter that he just couldn’t see them as they were?
Very young children see the world as colour and shapes and light and shade. In the rush to teach we hand over to them the words for the things they see, with the value-laden descriptions (sun good, rain bad, white good, black bad). Over time as they scamper through life they gather more labels for what and who they see. The labels become the stories they tell themselves. Their judgments, assumptions and prejudices settle in their heads like barnacles on a biography (asylum seekers terrorists, jobless people lazy, politicians liars).
It’s these labels and habits and stories that can stop us seeing as a child would, with fresh eyes.
If we are to innovate, to be an innovation nation, we don’t start by building hi-tech hubs. We start by looking inside ourselves. When we open ourselves up to new ways of seeing we don’t just get occasional innovative businesses, we create an innovation culture.
Try it. Give yourself some moments of stillness. Notice the noise in your head, the habits of thought, the patterns, the stories you tell yourself - the many ways in which you are stuck. Then let them go like blowing through a dandelion. It takes practice, perhaps even a lifetime of unlearning. But the benefits are worth it when we see the world as new, like a child does, or a painter.