Why do you want to think better? Productive thinking can help you become a better thinker, which can lead to improvements in all areas of your life.
After completing this lesson, you should be able to:
Identify three reasons for thinking better.
Why do you want to think better? Well, first and foremost, because there's plenty of room for improvement. Nothing is perfect. The world is full of things we can all do better. And we've all done things just because we couldn't think of anything else to do.
How much misery do we cause and endure in our personal lives, our business lives, our community lives, and our geopolitical lives because we can't think of anything else to do, because we can't find better options, because we act and react according to our timeworn limited — and limiting — patterns?
How much better would our lives, our businesses, our world be if only we could think of better things to do, if only we could increase our options, if only we could truly think productively? It would be great if we could avoid the processionary caterpillar syndrome in which we do things just because we can't think of better things to do.
The productive thinking process uses a series of trigger questions to stimulate thinking about issues. One of the "stems" we use to construct those questions is "It would be great if...what?" There probably isn't anyone alive who doesn't believe that his or her life or the lives of others couldn't be improved. It would be great if we could think of ways to do so. We can all do better. The first step is to start thinking better.
More than any other commodity, information is everywhere. Not only can almost anyone access almost anything at almost no cost, but unlike corn and wheat, information doesn't have to be consumed to be used. Quite the opposite: The more information is used, the more it grows. Access to information is no longer the great differentiator. In the transformation economy, what matters is how you think.
Today the only significant economic differentiator for organizations is how well they can use that exponentially growing bank of information: how effectively they can sift through it, evaluate it, transform it into new knowledge, and maximize its economic potential.
Here's the second reason to think better: If it isn't already, the ability to think better will soon become the most significant competitive advantage companies and individuals can claim. Thinking better is what it's all about. And unlike manufacturing, accounting, or telemarketing, the thinking capacity of an organization can't be effectively outsourced.
Clearly, as innovation becomes the watchword for business leaders, those who think better will win. Companies that have paid lip service to the value of their intellectual capital will have to put their money where their heads are. But that won't be easy. Intellectual capital is slippery. Its value lies in its potential, but it's difficult to measure, sometimes even difficult to see.
Creative intellectual capital is also unpredictable. You don't know what it's going to produce. That can be uncomfortable for corporate leaders who've grown up believing that spreadsheets and systems can define reality. The old axiom "what's not measurable is not manageable" may not apply anymore.
The third reason to think better is because you can. Productive thinking is a skill anyone can learn. Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, "All great speakers were bad speakers first." None of us starts out in life knowing how to think. It's a skill we learn. Some of us, through good fortune, encounter mentors and circumstances that teach us well. Some of us don't. But regardless of your basic equipment or the training you've encountered, you can learn to think better.
The Productive Thinking Model is a disciplined, repeatable process for thinking better, thinking more creatively, thinking more innovatively. It's based on over 50 years of cognitive research. And it can be learned. Over the years, evidence has mounted that thinking, and specifically creative thinking, is a skill like any other. It can be taught, it can be developed, and it can be nurtured.
Every brain, regardless of its intelligence quotient (IQ) or creative quotient (CQ), can be taught to think better: to understand more clearly, think more creatively, and plan more effectively. The unexpected connection is the heart of the productive thinking process. Seeing old things in new ways — seeing the initially strange but later obvious connections between familiar things — is what "Ah-ha!" is all about. The unexpected connection has brought us every innovation we've ever created, from the early discovery that a bone could be a weapon to Apple's creation of the iPhone.
Unexpected connections don't occur only in the fields of science and technology. Bill Bowerman made an unexpected connection between a tennis shoe and a waffle iron. He literally put the two together, created a new type of sole, and launched Nike, the most successful shoe company in history.
Productive thinking is a way to shine a bright light on the potential connections that are waiting to be discovered all around us. Imagine increasing your chances of finding unexpected connections. Could you make your business better? Your family? Your world? To create the future, you have to be able to imagine it. Productive thinking is a way to help you do that. It's not magic. It's a disciplined approach to thinking more creatively and more effectively.
You can actually train yourself to think better. The more you practice it, the better you'll get. The better you get, the more opportunities you will have to make a better world, a better company, a better life.
The power of productive thinking lies in its potential to increase your chances of finding, developing, and ultimately implementing unexpected connections. And these unexpected connections seem to be in limitless supply: an infinite number of "Ah-ha's!" waiting to be discovered. Unexpected connections can be physically powerful. The moment of insight can actually jolt your body. People's "Ah-ha!" moments are often punctuated by triumphant Archimedes-like yells, by air punches and cries of "YES!", by laughter, and sometimes even tears. Yet once the unexpected connection is revealed, it seems so obvious, even mundane. People often shake their heads and say, "Well, of course. Why didn't we see that before?"
That's one of the beauties of insight. Before a connection is made, there's nothing. A moment later, the connection seems like it's been there forever. It's been said that genius is simply a talent for seeing the obvious.
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