When receiving a holiday present, it’s usually very attractively wrapped. But to discover what wonderful new item awaits you requires tearing off the wrapping.

Think about traditional knowledge in your business and industry (its “conventional wisdom”) as the wrapping paper. While understanding conventional wisdom provides some attractive guiding principles to help speed decision making, it also sits between you and potentially wonderful new insights about your business.

So in the spirit of the holiday season, try this exercise to “unwrap” conventional knowledge that may be getting in the way of discovering shiny new possibilities:

  • Write down ten pieces of conventional wisdom in your business. These are the things that everybody who has been around the business knows and understands to be true (i.e., in the restaurant industry, it might be that you turn tables as quickly as possible to maximize the number of people served).
  • For each piece of conventional wisdom, remove it from your knowledge, in effect “unwrapping & discarding” your traditional view of the business.
  • Imagine that you never knew the conventional wisdom you’ve now discarded. Ask yourself - What are five new approaches to my innovation challenge that are different because of what I now don’t know?

In the restaurant example, the five possibilities might include:

  • A one price lunch with dessert included to increase the average check size.
  • Providing some more private meeting space for business lunches.
  • Not explicitly charging for the private meeting space; simply charge more for the food & beverages.
  • Having selected pre-made grab & go items from the sit-down menu for quick lunches on the run.
  • Give diners a signal to indicate that they’re leisurely settled and want the wait staff to take their order.

Try this approach before the holidays are over on an opportunity or problem that you’re presented. Remember though - don’t save all the bows and re-use them year after year, as some people do. Throw a little conventional wisdom out annually and replace it with new & better insights!