One of my favorite movies in recent years was Limitless. I don’t know if you saw it or not; it was about a little pill which let people tap into their brain’s full potential. Unfortunately, that pill doesn’t exist. So, on Monday, I started this post on how to Think…Better!
As I began writing, I quickly realized I had more tips, techniques and tactics to share than one post could contain. So, here we are with Part 2. If you missed the first post, we covered: Conversation, Listening, Questions, Solitude and Drawing. Here’s the balance of my list…
Places – Some of you will find you think better in certain places. The only way to discover this is to try different places. My recommendation is to try different places for different types of thinking. You may find you do your best deep thinking in one setting and your best creative thinking in another. I’ve discovered I write my best blog posts at Starbucks – with mocha in hand, of course.
Writing – This can take many forms – journaling, streaming, list making, questions, etc. The point is when you write down your thoughts you often create new ones. I’m not sure exactly why it works, but it usually does for me. Many times, this activity will also raise questions, which will help you think more deeply about the issue or problem at hand. When you want to think about anything, it’s always good to have a pen and paper or laptop or tablet or smart phone handy.
Role Reversal – Sometimes you can totally change your thinking by changing your role (in your mind). If you’re trying to create a strategy to combat your competition, try assuming their point-of-view. What would they think? What would they do? Why would they do those things? Thinking from a totally different perspective almost always stimulates new thoughts.
Scenario Planning – This is a well-known approach to stimulate new and innovative ideas. Here’s a quick explanation: Create multiple scenarios of the future – some may be likely and others highly unlikely. Then ask yourself a series of questions such as: “What would I do in this scenario?” “What are the implications?” What lessons would I learn if this scenario became true?” Be sure to capture your thoughts in each scenario.
Reading – Reading can be a catalyst for thinking. Here are two ideas to maximize this activity: 1) Read widely. If you read only subjects you already know and the work of people who share your views, the insights may be limited. 2) Reflect on what you’re reading. The advice I was given as a young leader was to divide my reading time in half – invest 50% actually reading the other 50% reflecting on what I’d read. It works.
Time on Task – There are many things leaders can do with little preparation; we can just show up and wing it – thinking is not one of them. Here’s the bottom line: regardless of the methods you employ, thinking well, thinking deeply, thinking creatively and thinking productively requires time. If we invest the time, there’s no guarantee we’ll discover the insights we need. However, if we don’t invest the time, we can be guaranteed we won’t. My experience: if I don’t schedule time to think, it shows.
I suggest you try all these ideas. You may find some of these suggestions help you with one type of thinking and not another. You may find your creative thinking skills are enhanced in a group setting while your problem solving is improved with solitude. The point is not how you think – it is that you think well.
I began Monday’s post with a reference to Thomas Watson. I’ll close with a quote from him…
Whatever you do, don’t fall into the activity trap and sacrifice your thinking time. If you do, you run the risk of sacrificing your leadership![GLS_Shield]
What methods, tips and techniques help you think well?