Reactive vs Proactive

THECUBE is always looking to challenge and find new process to help increase the success of ideas. Throughout the corporate world the word proactive is constantly mentioned, you have to be a more proactive employee, show your immediate superior that you are able to anticipate situations. In this environment being proactive is a positive, you can anticipate needs and tasks, if you are really good at it, being proactive can lead you to a pay raise. The problem with being proactive is that it gives you tunnel vision and you don’t stop and observe your surroundings. You are making assumptions, looking to the past to anticipate the future and the creating plans based on this knowledge. This can be dangerous because you are leaving room for new thought and without new thoughts you can not reach ideas However, in the world of ideas, being proactive is not enough or applicable at least not at the idea generation stage. If as most of us you have come from employment into enterprise, the old neurological connections are very much still there, the need to anticipate, project, assume, and be proactive are engraved, making us want to respond in the same way we always do.

Why is Reacting better for Ideas?

  1. When you react it is under the assumption that first there was an observation process, therefore your idea starts from an empathetic point.
  2. Starting your idea from empathetic perspective will help you later on understand exactly who your market is, what its needs/wants are, and how to communicate with them.
  3. When you react to a need or want in the market you increase the success rate of your idea, because you are reacting to a tangible desire.
  4. There are different degrees of reaction, if you are a great observer and engage your imagination you will be able to see further than current needs/wants and begin to create ideas that are ahead of the trend curve – really begin to innovate. For example if you react to a sunny day and sell lemonade, great your idea is good and you will make a humble living, however if you engage imagination and further observation you can create a lemonade lounge, sell a variety of lemonade flavours, offer cooling tips, a place to relax in the shade, partner up with local parks and set-up mobile lemonade stands etc. Facebook is a good example of this, Zuckerberg observed his peers and imagined a whole  new platform that would help them keep in touch.
  5. Reaction helps create a sense of timing, which is essential for ideas. As you are reacting to your surroundings and creating an idea based on that observation, you will have a better gauge of where you are in regards to your competitors and trends. Knowing when to launch an idea is crucial too early and won’t get off the ground (if Twitter had come before Facebook, the social psychology would not have been there) too late and you will miss a good portion of the market ( take the American auto industry, they never reacted to the need of small vehicles like the Japanese and now they are now a crippled industry).
  6. Reacting helps you save time as well, instead of spending time brainstorming ideas out of thin air or wasting time with bad ideas that come from assumption rather than observations; you can get straight to the idea by reacting to your surroundings. Then spend time brainstorming how to get the idea of the ground, which is time much better spent.
  7. Reaction gives you a head start from bigger competitors. Again as reaction is a consequence of good observation and most big companies don’t allow themselves to observe, you can reach the market first by reacting faster. Also bigger companies have to go through hierarchy and bureaucracy so their reaction time will be slower, giving smaller businesses the advantage of speed and reaction.

How to become a better reactor

  1. Observe, observe, and observe. What is happening in your surroundings, peer group, market, society, etc.
  2. Move away from your comfort zone, as when you are too comfortable your brain goes on autopilot and you don’t observe. This is why most car crashes happen within the first 2 miles of your home.
  3. Engage in new environments, peer groups, etc
  4. Research behaviours, interest, and preferences of your peers or desired market
  5. Read material that gives you insight on the sociology and psychology of your environment and society.
  6. Read material that educates you on what others are doing, have done, industry, and trend behaviour.
  7. Spend time in your right brain and learn to trust your instinct and gut feeling.
  8. Assume nothing be curious and investigate.
  9. Read books on process rather than ‘how to books’ as the former will encourage you to think and engage your imagination instead of sitting passively and ingesting someone else’s thoughts.
  10. Be an outsider, investigate different theories other than your own realm of knowledge. This will help you engage your imagination and expand your mind-space, leading to distilled innovative ideas.
  11. Let the idea takes its course, so you don’t limit the success of the idea. So the reaction process continues, keep reacting the possibility rather than plotting each step meticulously.
  12. Build neighbourhoods of thoughts; investigate other related mindsets/theories that the idea may live in, in order help the idea develop and expand. For example the Wright Brothers, had to investigate their observations in physics, engineering, nature, and Da Vinci in order to imagine the possibility of an apparatus that would transport humans in flight. Their neighbourhood of thought was expansive expanding their observational field and thus making their idea great and achievable.


All the above will help your brain make new mind maps which will lead you to create that epiphany faster and effectively.