For years, I have interviewed extremely successful people such as Nobel Prize winners, astronauts and Olympic champions to understand what made them succeed. I then reverse engineered their path to success and reduced the commonalities to their foundational elements, which I in turn teach others and focus on in my next book, The success factor. The reverse engineering process that I used is a common practice used by elite athletes and thought leaders; everyone from Olympic champion Simone Biles to Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Reverse engineering requires the user to systematically take things apart to explore their inner workings, distill them to their fundamentals, and then siphon out key information. For example, imagine taking a computer apart to determine its individual parts and imagine how you can do it better, like Michael Dell did before launching Dell Computers.
Pure curiosity is a crucial motivation for reverse engineering and is commonly used by top performers. They continually do this practice to stimulate creativity, find hidden ideas, and learn new skills. In the process, they learn to look beyond, that’s obvious.
In his new book, Decode greatness, social psychologist Dr. Ron Friedman teaches
various ways to reverse everything, from a recipe for chocolate chip cookies to the personal computer. Research in pattern recognition, creative genius and skill acquisition is based on reverse engineering. At the heart of disruptive innovation, argues Friedman, is the ability to act on curiosity by taking a proven formula for success and adding a unique twist.
You can achieve this in several ways:
- Mix several influences together;
- Find ideas in outside industries and genres and mix them up in your own industry.
- Change the composition of your doctor and your virtual team;
- Be selective about the information you consume and intentionally block unnecessary influential voices.
In this process, top performers are quickly able to distinguish between relevant and unnecessary information. Their experience informs their ability to know what to focus on and they ignore everything else. They look for essential clues and are experts in pattern recognition.
If you want to bridge the gap between your goal and your current capabilities, consider the following framework:
- Identify your key indicators
- Create scalable, low-risk opportunities
- Extract more knowledge from your experiences
- Quickly master the skills
- Anticipate future events before they happen
The last one might seem tricky, but you already do it every day if you stop and think. Just as athletes and chess masters can think several steps ahead, so do you in your daily tasks. For example, you probably know how some people will respond to a request, email, or new project.
For real learning to happen, you need to take the time to think about what worked and what didn’t. Then search for ideas, patterns, and predictions. This is how you turn experiences into wisdom.
Becoming good at something is more than just being brilliant or creative. Talent will not get you far. The same can be said for hard work. Peeling off the layers of greatness and then rebuilding it in a new and unique form is what makes people stand out. It’s a business formula that has worked for Apple, Starbucks, Chipotle, popular TED talks, and Marvel movies. Using some of the techniques of Decode greatness discovering genius beyond what you admire and are most curious about will help you unleash your creative innovations and set you on the path to success.