Look for the big thinkers

To source big ideas that are mind-blowing but also credible, Tickner follows several scientists, professors, and experts.

In their 2015 study, Parise and his co-authors noted that “[s]everal employees mentioned virtual connections to the thoughts of individuals such as former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and science commentator Bill Nye as catalysts for good ideas—even though those individuals were not directly involved with the work the employees were doing.”

See the world through someone else’s feed

It’s not exactly stepping into someone else’s skin, but you can find ways to see the world through a stranger’s Twitter feed. For instance, Quartz senior editor Adam Pasick follows an account that retweets everything from the Twitter handles that US president Donald Trump follows. A team at MIT has created a tool that allows you to do this with any Twitter follower.

Pay special attention to media you follow

Another growth editor at Quartz, Molly Stier, advises examining your news diet. She makes a conscious effort to diversify her sources, especially in Chicago, where she lives.

“I like to stay on top of emerging and established voices in Chicago, from literary circles to organizers, to politicians,” she says. “I do that by seeing who a wide-array of Chicago media is covering and following them on Twitter. Then I take inventory of who they follow, and continue evaluating who to follow from there,” she explains. Rather than paying attention only to the Chicago Tribune, she says, “[i]f I follow folks being featured in The TRiiBE, WBEZ, Block Club Chicago, Chicago Reporter, In These Times, and the Chicago Tribune, then I’m going to do a better job at diversifying my feed.”

She adds: “It’s not foolproof, but it sets up a good foundation to work from.”

Take the information somewhere useful

Parise and his team on the 2015 study interviewed more than 200 of the employees whose networks they had mapped and who had been identified as generators of novel ideas. They noticed a pattern: People whose ideas were ranked highly also seemed to have a high “individual absorptive capacity,” or, more plainly, a better ability to hear valuable signals in the noise. “I can throw 20 ideas at you, but if you don’t have the ability to understand, assimilate, and then do something with that, then where’s the value?” Parise says.

The good news is, the cost of information is going to zero, he observes. But if you’re inspired by an online trend or clever approach you find elsewhere, you still need the ability to figure out what’s valid and applicable within your organization, and where to take the information so that it’s acted upon.

Keep updating

Finally, make the work of maintaining a diverse network a habit with no expiration date. One interviewee in Parise’s study described the push for diversity as an “ongoing battle,” explaining that “after a year or so of following the same people, you find that your opinions shift and morph a little, and suddenly you are with a homogenous group of people again.”

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