IBM founder, Thomas Watson Sr., was famous for his admonition for his people to THINK. He worked diligently to build an organization in which thinking could become a competitive advantage. My goal is more ambitious: I want to help leaders around the world think better!
In last Friday’s post, I shared a few thoughts on thinking. If you buy the premise that thinking is one of our most important things we do as a leader, it makes sense for you and I to constantly work to improve our thinking skills. The good news: you can raise your level of thinking. Like any other skill, thinking can be developed and enhanced.
There is certainly no formula or recipe to become a better thinker. However, there are many things leaders can do to take their thinking to new levels. As I started writing this, it was clear there are too many tips, tactics and techniques for one post. So, the balance of my list will be in Wednesday’s post. Here are some initial ideas for you to experiment with…
Conversation – Some people think better when they can talk about their ideas. If this is you, proactively create these opportunities. The dinner I wrote about last week is a good example. Surround yourself with others who also appreciate this approach and see what ideas you can generate. A cautionary note: if this is how you like to think, be careful not to dominate conversations; who knows, you may also be able to stimulate some good ideas through the next approach.
Listening – For many people, silence in a group setting can stimulate deep thoughts. Many times, people who think best in this fashion are overlooked or discounted. In some cultures, these people can be mislabeled as disengaged. If you’ve not tried it, you might want to give it a try. Slow to speak, quick to listen, could be a new way for you to discover some new ideas. If this is you, or you want to learn more about people like this, check out Susan Cain’s TED Talk.
Questions – One of the things I love about questions is their ability to take you to places you’ve never been before. “What if? Why not?” Or, simply, “Why?” and other questions like these, can be the key to deeper thinking. You probably need to create a list of your top ten or twenty, or more, questions that help you think deeply about a problem or opportunity. I’ll share some of my favorite thinking questions in a future post.
Solitude – For many leaders, you’ll do your best thinking when you are alone. I’ve talked to leaders who can do this in a very short time – for some an hour alone to think yields great results. Others will find solitude works its thinking magic only when applied in larger doses. My experience is that it depends on the topic I’m thinking about… some issues demand more time.
Drawing – If you’ve not tried this, you should. It has long been known that to illustrate your problems and potential solutions can have an amazing effect. This is not just for those of you who consider yourselves artistic; this is for everyone. Start by simply diagramming the problem or give yourself the assignment: Communicate the issue you’re thinking about visually – no words allowed. Then, begin to draw pictures of potential solutions. Visual thinking stimulates awareness and understanding.
Try a few of these ideas and pay attention to what works. You may need to try each idea with different thinking assignments and types of thinking before you decide its value to you. More ideas on Wednesday.