Do you remember hearing your teacher say “Eyes on your own paper” while taking a test? Did your coach tell you “Don’t look” at your competitor during a sprint since it would slow you down?
Not looking around results in what I call the pizza parlor problem. It’s something you probably see all the time and goes like this: you look around town and realize that there is no place to get pizza. You calculate that the population can support this kind of restaurant, so you lay out some dough, develop a business plan, get the proper permits, lease a store, design a menu, and hire a staff all within a year. Then when you are ready to open, you notice that four others people had the same idea. The area has too much pizza and cannot support five restaurants so you are all in trouble.
In art class, your teacher said to walk around the room to see what everyone else is doing. Looking over your shoulder prevents replicating and is a way that good ideas are transferred. Painters, musicians and writers, are wise to seek out the best in their field who came and succeeded before them. Looking can be a passive form of collaboration with some of the greatest minds and most talented people who ever lived where the best ideas can be borrowed and the best practices of others can be incorporate with your own. To be creative, start by looking over the shoulders of giants.