Doing something new can be a daunting endeavor. Whether we are taking on a new project, developing a fledgling idea, or simply learning to do a task we haven’t done before, trying something new can leave us feeling a bit overwhelmed. This is especially true if we are starting from scratch, trying to reinvent the wheel, as the saying goes.
Although new things often require a fresh start, it is wise to look for stepping stones or handholds that can serve as a guide or foundation for the new undertaking. Reinventing the wheel is time-consuming and takes a lot of energy and resources to begin with nothing. It can take a lot of trial and error to get a new system or product working just right. While doing a new thing always requires something “new” – new knowledge, new skills, new processes, new resources, new ideas, and so on – we don’t always have to start at zero. There are three ways we can create a framework for a new endeavor so we don’t have to spend so much time reinventing the wheel.
1. Study other systems
Find other processes or products that do something similar to what you are trying to do. Study them. Evaluate them. What do they do well? Then apply the lessons you’ve observed to your own work. This helps whether you are starting a blog or designing a new toaster. While your process or product will invariably have some differences from the ones you study, observing the way others work provides a foundation to build on.
2. Find a mentor or coach
The knowledge and expertise of those who have traveled the path you are embarking on is invaluable. Whether you consult a business owner about starting a business or an engineer about designing appliances, the experience of a mentor or coach will offer a guide, a type of roadmap for major milestones. Mentors and coaches come in many forms from local networks to practical books to professional coaches and consultants. No matter where you find your mentors, glean all you can from their input.
3. Build on other ideas
Even if you’ve come up with a winning idea, ideas are better together. Look for ways to build on existing concepts, collaborate with others, and invite feedback. Maybe someone else knows of a resource that will help you. Maybe another person can add valuable insight by envisioning a new dimension to the concept. In education, existing ideas and knowledge are used to build a figurative scaffold for constructing new knowledge. Building on ideas creates a type of structure for taking a new idea higher, making it better. Embrace the strength of many ideas to sharpen and scaffold your own.
There is a Hebrew proverb that says to sharpen the ax because a dull ax requires more strength to get the job done (Ecclesiastes 10:10). Stephen Covey even included an activity in his well-known planners that he called “sharpening the saw” to focus on growth and development. By sharpening our ideas and understanding, we can stop reinventing the wheel and successfully do something new.
Share your thoughts in the comments below. What new endeavor are you embarking on? What have you learned along the way?