What companies can learn from Copernicus

Just 500 years ago, we humans believed that Earth was at the centre of the universe. Before the dawn of modern astrology, the common belief was that our planet was stable and fixed in position as astrologers observed that the Sun and moon appeared to revolve around them once a day. But in 1543, Polish astrologer Copernicus showed that this wasn’t the case. As it turned out, humans were not the centre of the universe – the sun was.

In business today, many corporations fall into the trap of thinking that they are at the centre of their customers world. Confirmation bias leads us to believe we're more important than we actually are. But over the past 20 years, customer and user centricity have gained increasing momentum, through the ability to challenge established beliefs and find new streams of value. These outside-in approaches to innovation are a fundamental method to uncovering uncomfortable, but important truths.  

Understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around us

The ability to shift vantage points were key to Copernicus’s discovery on the formulation of the solar system. His ability to look beyond himself and own perspective allowed him to make one of the greatest discoveries of all time. And the major barrier to developing new perspectives isn’t intellectual. More than ever, it’s emotional.  

As humans, we tend to cherry-pick information which confirms pre-existing ideas and beliefs. But for us to grow and develop, we have to bypass this internal need to be validated and instead seek out the information which will challenge our worldview. Key to shifting our vantage point is to understand ourselves and our customers as part of wider galaxies which are dynamic and can change at any moment.  

Combatting confirmation bias

Being right feels good. This need for validation amongst our peers is something that has been hardwired into our DNA since the pre-historic age – a time when social isolation meant certain death. Though uncomfortable, for anyone working in innovation, it’s crucial to ask: ‘what evidence must we find for us to change my mind on this matter?’. By identifying the right vantage points, we can look beyond our existing beliefs and uncover suprising trurths.

Today the only constant is change – and nobody wants to introduce additional uncertainty into their lives. But in order to not only survive but thrive to this everchanging reality, we need to be responsive to the environments in which we work and be continually on the lookout to create new forms of value.  

Seeing the galaxies of influence

Whilst Copernicus moved astrology forward lightyears in his discovery, in 1610 Galileo made the discovery that the sun was not the centre of the universe either. The Sun was instead part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is just one out of a billion galaxies.  

Today in business, boundaries between sectors are becoming increasingly blurred, meaning that new solutions can come from the most unexpected places. As the innovation space because increasingly saturated, it becomes more important than ever to shift vantage points and look beyond current horizons. Thanks to Galileo, Earth is one in a billion. Rather than the centre of it all. What discovery can you make through taking an outside in approach?