The Best Sort of a Breakthrough Idea

“But of course!”

That’s the best sort of breakthrough idea.

An idea that after it is seen, can’t be unseen, an idea that changes what comes next.

No need to change the world. A tiny part of the world, even one person, is enough for today.

-Seth Godin

A periodic visit to the 100 Acre Wood. Here’s the backstory.


Speed Reading Week, Day 5

Creative Thinkering, Michael Michalko

Have you ever asked yourself “Why didn’t I think of that?”

 If so, this book is for you. Bestselling creativity expert Michael Michalko shows that in every field of endeavor – from business and science to government, the arts, and even day-to-day life – our natural creativity is limited by the prejudices of logic and the structure of accepted categories and concepts. Through step-by-step exercises, illustrated strategies, and inspiring real-world examples, Creative Thinkering will show you how to synthesize dissimilar subjects, think paradoxically, and enlist the help of your subconscious mind. You will liberate your thinking and literally expand your imagination.

Creative Thinkering is filled with innovative exercises to strengthen your intuition. With every chapter you will learn something new – often from a situation or setting that you encounter every day. The book also contains fascinating stories and examples of how people use the power of creative thinkering. One of my favorites is about Walt Disney:

Using his imagination, Walt Disney uncritically explored fantastical ideas. Afterward, he would engineer these fantasies into feasible ideas and then evaluate them. He would shift his perspective three times by playing three separate and distinct roles in relation to them: those of the dreamer, the realist, and the critic.

On the first day, he would play the dreamer and dream up fantasies and wishful visions. He would let his imagination soar without worrying about how to implement his conceptions. The next day, he would bring his fantasies down to earth by playing the realist. As a realist, he would look for ways to work his conceptions into something practical. On the third day, he would play the part of the critic and poke holes in his ideas, asking, “Is this feasible?”

Got an idea or project coming up? Put the power of creative thinkering to work and you will be amazed at the results.


Thinking for a Change

I close Thinking Week by presenting the main points of “Thinking for a Change” by John Maxwell. Maxwell is probably my favorite author of pure leadership writings, and I have never been disappointed by his works. In this case, they speak volumes for anyone interested in developing their thinking.

  1. Understand the Value of Good Thinking
  2. Realize the Impact of Changed Thinking
  3. Master the Process of Intentional Thinking
  4. Acquire the Wisdom of BigPicture Thinking
  5. Unleash the Potential of Focused Thinking
  6. Discover the Joy of Creative Thinking
  7. Recognize the Importance of Realistic Thinking
  8. Release the Power of Strategic Thinking
  9. Feel the Energy of Possibility Thinking
  10. Embrace the Lessons of Reflective Thinking
  11. Question the Acceptance of Popular Thinking
  12. Encourage the Participation of Shared Thinking
  13. Experience the Satisfaction of Unselfish Thinking
  14. Enjoy the Return of Bottom-Line Thinking

You can change the way you think.

Whatever things are true…noble…just…pure…lovely…are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; think on these things Philippians 4:8


Got Your Thinking Hat On?

Thinking is the ultimate human resource. Yet we can never be satisfied with our most important skill. No matter how good we become, we should always want to be better.
-Edward de Bono
Dr. de Bono is an internationally acclaimed authority in the teaching of thinking as a skill. I’ve posted on his most famous book, The Six Thinking Hats, here. In this week’s ongoing discussion of thinking, I wanted to revisit his work briefly.
In “Six Thinking Hats” the author presents a simple but effective way to become a better thinker. He separates thinking into six distinct modes, identified with six colored “thinking hats”:
  • White – facts, figures, and objective information
  • Red – emotions and feelings
  • Black – logical negative thoughts
  • Yellow – positive constructive thoughts
  • Green – creativity and new ideas
  • Blue – control of the other hats and thinking steps
“Putting on” a hat focuses thinking; “switching” hats redirects thinking. With the different parts of the thinking process thus clearly defined, discussions can be better focused and more productive.
There are two main purposes to the six thinking hats concept. The first purpose is to simplify thinking by allowing a thinker to deal with one thing at a time. Instead of having to take care of emotions, logic, information, hope and creativity all at the same time, the thinker is able to deal with them separately.
The second main purpose of the six thinking hats concept is to allow a switch in thinking. If a person at a meeting has been persistently negative, that person can be asked to take off “the black thinking hat.” This signals the person that he has is being persistently negative. A person may be asked to put on “the yellow thinking hat;” this is a direct request to be positive.
By referring to the color of the hat instead of the emotion or perceived style, the concept of the hats minimizes the impact on a person’s ego or personality and allow for the possibility of focusing on one thing at a time – instead of trying to do everything at once.


Got a tough meeting coming up?

Make sure you carry six hats in!




The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Continuing our Thinking Week, let’s move from the structure of Morgan Jones to the adaptive unconscious of the mind as depicted in Malcolm Gladwell’s classic book “blink“.

Gladwell weaves compelling stories as diverse as the uncovering of a fraud in ancient statuary to that of a classical trombonist auditioning for the lead chair in a world-class orchestra. The power of these and other stories in the book is that our mind has an uncanny ability to quickly make decisions that can be every bit as good as decisions made curiously and deliberately. So much for structure and analysis!


The problem is that our unconscious is a powerful force. But it can be fallible. It can be thrown off, distracted, and disabled. Our instinctive reactions often have to compete with all kinds of other interests and emotions and sentiments. Are we then not to trust our instincts?
Gladwell does an amazing job of laying out the case that the mind can be educated and controlled when it comes to making snap judgements and first impressions. Gladwell captivates the reader with stories that help us understand the power of instantaneous impressions and conclusions that spontaneously arise whenever we meet a new persons or confront a complex situation or have to make a decision under conditions of stress.
What do you think? Can there be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis?

Thinking About Thinking

Have you ever thought about how we think? Since reading Brain Rules and the sequel Brain Rules for Baby, I have been fascinated by the thought process we go through to make decisions. Here’s a whirlwind tour of some great resources on thinking.

The Thinker’s Toolkit

Former CIA analyst Morgan Jones argues that the single most important factor missing from most decision-making processes is structure. Structure for him means a logical framework in which to focus discussion on key points, keeping it focused so that each element and factor of a problem is analyzed separately, systematically, and sufficiently. Jones goes on to say that humans tend to avoid analytic structure that because structuring one’s analysis is fundamentally at odds with the way the human mind works.

Human beings are problem solvers by nature. Yet in order to reach most solutions, we go through a process of trial and error. In all human affairs, from marriage to marketing to management, success is generally built upon failure. And why some failures are justly attributable to bad luck, most result from faulty decisions based on mistaken analysis.

Here is a list of some of what Jones calls analytic sins:

  • We commonly begin our analysis of a problem by formulating our conclusions; we thus start at what should be the end of the analytic process.
  • Our analysis usually focuses on the solution we intuitively favor; we therefore give inadequate attention to alternative solutions.
  • Not surprisingly, the solution we intuitively favor is, more often than not, the first one that seems satisfactory.
  • We tend to confuse “discussion/thinking hard” about a problem with “analyzing” it, when in fact the two activities are not at all the same.
  • We focus on the substance (evidence, arguments, and conclusions) and not on the process of our analysis.
  • Most people are fundamentally illiterate when it comes to structuring their analysis.

If we take a structured approach in thinking, the mind remains open, enabling one to examine each element of the decision or problem separately. The outcome is almost always more comprehensive and more effective than following our instincts alone.

Think about that…