Thursday, November 3, 2011
10 Ways to Improve Your Thinking
Thinking differently is easier said than done. While no one is simply born a good thinker, you also don’t just move from the low end of the thinking continuum to the high end by following a recipe or reading a couple of books. Done consistently by anyone, it can better your not-so-good and average ideas, solutions and plans into good and possibly great ones, making a tremendous difference in your personal well-being and of your your organization. The people we have talked with chose to put in the time and effort that is required to think differently and ultimately better. Will you? Here are ten ways to start the process of becoming a better thinker:
1. Acknowledge your own ignorance and biases and find the source. Once you accept that you have ignorance and biases (because everyone does), you will be better able to minimize, control and take them into account when problem solving. Your point of view is not a bad thing. It is the lack of understanding of why you hold your position that can be dangerous.
2. Develop your listening skills. Observe how others demonstrate excellent and poor thinking. Learn from and document examples on both ends of the thinking continuum.
3. Think specifically. Pinpoint actions that need to be taken to reach a goal or outcome. Anticipate reactions and outcomes of various strategies before implementing any of them.
4. Engage in positive and realistic thinking about how things will play out. Focus on what will go well in order to accomplish the task, goal or solution. However, don’t think things will come easily and effortlessly as unrealistic thinking will cause you to be ill-prepared.
5. Determine how you will constantly improve your thinking. Focus on “getting better” in your thinking rather than a fixed conclusion of “being good” at thinking. Having a growth mindset allows for adapting, being flexible and engaging in continuous improvement of your thinking.
6. Question, question, question. Develop a bevy of questions to use for analysis, reflection, inquiry, etc. Listen to the questions of others and try out the best ones. Use the appropriate question(s) for the situation and the desired outcome. Doubt and critical analysis are vital ingredients to better thinking.
7. Understand your emotions. Emotions in thinking are unavoidable but can cloud your judgment and unduly influence your thinking. The logical and emotional parts of your brain do not function well simultaneously. Learn how to control your emotions so that which part of your brain is operating is a decision rather than a reaction.
8. Collaborate with others. This can be a single colleague or a group of colleagues depending on the situation. However, be careful. Poor group thinking leads to the same results as poor individual thinking. When possible, surround yourself with other billionaire thinkers.
9. Talk with people whom you think are good at thinking and learn from them. If you don’t find them in your current network of colleagues and co-workers, make a deliberate effort to seek them out. Have informational interviews to pick their brains and figure out how you can adapt their thinking style to your own processes.
10. Reflect. Find a time, a routine and a place to think about your thinking. Thinking is like exercising your muscles. The more you do it the better you get at it. Not used, your thinking muscles become weak over time. Thinking can be hard work--physically and mentally exhausting. Stick with it though and you will improve.