Peripheral Thinking & Opening Your Mind with Paul Daniels
“If you open your mind, there are lessons everywhere.” – Paul Daniels
I had a diverting conversation with Paul Daniels, keynote speaker, board advisor, and the Chief Revenue Officer at Intelligent Contacts.
Paul is one of many dyslexics who have chosen to use his unique perspective as a benefit instead of a hindrance throughout his life.
- How dyslexia impacts thought processes
- Defining peripheral thinking
- Cultivating an open mind
How dyslexia impacts thought processes
If you look at history, some of the most impactful innovators are dyslexics. People who took their profession to the highest levels and, in some cases, even created new industries.
“Einstein, Henry Ford, Bancroft, DaVinci, Agatha Christie, JFK—the list goes on.” Paul shares, “The difference with dyslexia is our processing of written material. It's just a learning difference. It's not a disease, and it's not a disability,” he continues.
Dyslexic minds—myself included—take in information that most people miss and assemble it in unique ways.
“As I was growing and starting my business, I would find new ways to do things that were either more productive or more profitable, or opened up new markets for my clients,” Paul explains.
The nuance of perspective regarding dyslexia is not the limitation people believe it is. With the right mindset, dyslexic thinking can become an asset—creating patterns out of chaos, noticing seemingly insignificant details and applying them to solutions, connecting dots, etc. These are all trademarks of dyslexia.
Everything is connected if you know where to look and what frame of mind to use. That’s what Paul has aimed to curate.
Defining peripheral thinking
Peripheral thinking says, ‘Wait a minute, there may be something here, there may be ideas that we can use, and experiences that we can draw from,’ and from there, can weave a tapestry.
“We often equate brainstorming with creative ideas being drawn elegantly on whiteboards,” Paul says, “and with you walking away with a vision for the future that will be implemented immediately, fantasizing or romanticizing that brainstorming can happen with that one individual.”
Brainstorming is much messier than the movies depict. It’s sticky notes falling from cork boards, markers spilling out onto tables, mugs collecting on countertops—it’s a collaborative effort, more often than not, and with that means juggling perspectives.
The people who can harness the mess into functional outcomes are the ones with open minds and dynamic ideas.
“There are nine top skills that will be needed in the year 2025. And those nine have the fewest number of people in the current working population to fill the need.” Paul shares, “Ernst and Young found that eight of the nine are found innately within dyslexics.”
One of those skills is interpreting. This skill allows individuals to move outside their industries and look beyond industry best practices.
Interpretation sheds the notion that only the industry you’re working in can have the solution to any number of issues, and encourages looking outside at other circles.
Cultivating an open mind
Paul shares an exercise designed to help access peripheral thinking and bring the concept into a firmer focus. I encourage you to read it through and then give it a try:
Imagine that you're standing in a mountain field, and the sun feels warm on your face. The air is crisp and cool. As you look out over the mountain field, your challenge rises like a monolith out of the wildflowers.
Take your hand and cover your eyes so that you can't see what's right in front of you. What can you see?
Move your eyes up, to the right, to the left, and down. Find something in your environment that you haven't noticed before. A shadow, a spec on the floor—anything new.
Take your hand away from your eyes. That is peripheral vision; being able to see things that are in your periphery. What was in the peripheral vision is now clear even with your full vision restored, because you see the details of it. That's peripheral awareness.
You’re back in the mountain field, and instead of looking at your challenge from your position, imagine you move 100 yards to the right. What does that new vantage point tell you about that obstacle? New details are likely to pop out.
Circle your challenge; gather different perspectives figuratively and literally. By moving, you may find a vantage point past the monolith, and that’s where your solution may lie. That solution could reside in an industry, person, or community you never would have considered otherwise.
“It's those moments when you're in the mountain field using this peripheral thinking skill called interpreting that you collect lessons, content, principles, and solutions that you can apply anytime, anywhere.” Paul explains, “It's what dyslexics do naturally, what we hear and see always reminds us of something else.”
This way of seeing life is not a silver bullet. It is one of many things you need to know about yourself. What is your mindset? Explore where your imitations are.
Cultivating interpretation takes practice for everyone, even those who have a natural inclination. A few tips for developing this way of thinking are:
- Reading books and articles outside of your industry
- Taking courses about topics you’ve always been curious about
- Sharing your discoveries with others and bouncing ideas around
When was the last time you stepped outside of your routine? How can you incorporate more diversity into your perspective?