Colin Devroe on a kayak

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How to tear down the walls of your echo chamber

Everyone has an echo chamber that they've unwittingly built up around them. Your interests, friends, environment, and location are all factors in determining what your experiences are, what you know, and what you don't know. It can be limiting.

How can you tell if you're in an echo chamber? Ask yourself; Is your experience and knowledge more diverse than it was five years ago? Do you know everything there is to know about a single topic such as Apple or Anime? Do you listen to podcasts, read the blogs of, and follow the tweets of the same few guys? Do you see the same headline (or worse, sponsor) more than four times a day? You get the point. You've built up a few walls around yourself and things are beginning to echo a bit.

Shake things up. Tear down the walls. Here's how:

Travel. Don't go on vacation and just visit the touristy areas. Sit, eat, chat, and work with the people of the area you travel to. Learn what it is that makes business, marketing, and sales thrive there. Come back with ways you can improve how you do business. (Visit the touristy areas too, though, and Instagram the crap out of them.)

Go to conferences and meet ups. No doubt you'll hear new perspectives from the presenters but also be sure to intentionally speak to people who don't do exactly what you do. Ask them questions about how they do business, what lessons they've learned, what skills they have, and what their favorite hobbies are.

Work next to someone different. Have you had the same job for more than a few years? That's great. You should consider yourself fortunate. But you have to mix it up and you don't have to quit to do it. Work at a coworking space or a cafe a few times a week. Sit next to someone different. Feel their energy when they're getting stuff done. Teach them how you do things. Bring the lessons you learn from them back into your company. Everyone will benefit.

Periodically delete your RSS subscriptions. Or, perhaps, you use Twitter Lists now instead. Whatever the case, once-and-awhile go through and delete the sites that deliver news and opinion pieces. If you read someone's opinion long enough their opinions begin to form your own. Break out of that habit. Read the counter arguments. Or ditch them altogether.

Take a break from what you already know and follow something brand-new. Do you know everything about the new iPhone being released next month? Do you have an App.net account? (So do I.) This is OK. It is good to know what's new. But don't forget to learn from the past or from something new. Something way out of your "wheelhouse". What about following something super local but important like the growth of your community, the efforts to build new parks in your town, celebrate the centennial anniversary of a nearby bakery, or help a friend build a new business that you know nothing about? Take a break. Follow something new.

Watch 90% less television. That's it.

Get offline at least one night a week. The Internet is awesome. But it will be awesome tomorrow, too. Get offline one night a week (meaning, from 5pm until you go to sleep don't touch the Internet in anyway on computer, phone, TV, nothing) and do something you need to get done. Grocery shop, clean your house, repair something, play a board game with a friend, go to a museum, walk around your town and speak with your neighbors, plant a garden, cook a new recipe (twice). Remember; seeing something on-screen is much different than feeling it with your hands, smelling it, or tasting it. Get out there.

Our echo chambers won't kill us. But they certainly limit our own perspective. And, in reality, our experiences are what make us different, valuable to a company, and fun to be around. Tear down the walls of your own echo chamber and see what else is out there.

Have more to add? Consider chiming in on Hacker News.

  • 22 August 2012

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