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Thinking Better December 13, 2009

Posted by raimundosilvam in Think Better.
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With no doubt, the best book I read this year.

The book provides a very practical framework to learn how to think better.

One of the most important concepts I learnt by reading this book is that, more than any other commodity, information is everywhere  and 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.

Productive thinking is about freedom. To free ourselves from the unproductive thinking patterns that holds us back.

The book provides a 6-step thinking framework that is easy to use and that allows you to get to those “third/third” kind of solutions/ideas.

Step 1: What’s going on? Explore and truly understand the challenge,  Step 2: What’s success? Envision the ideal outcome and establish success criteria, Step 3: What’s the question? Pinpoint the real problem or opportunity, Step 4: Generate answers. List many possible solutions, Step 5: Forge the solution. Decide which solution in best. Then make it better,  Step 6: Align resources. Create an action plan

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How can we Think Better December 7, 2009

Posted by Ignacio Larrain in Think Better.
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This is a great book by Tim Hurson in which he encourages us to think better and proposes a framework to do so. The three basic assumptions on which he bases the need for better thinking are: 1) There is always room for improvement; 2) In the world of information it is not about what we know but about how we think; and 3) Thinking is a skill that can be learned.

But even though probably most of us – if not all – agree that these assumptions are true, then why won’t we engage very often in real thinking? The author links this situation with human energy conservation mechanisms we have developed for millions of years. As our brain tries to be as efficient as it can it takes us through a series of shortcuts to reduce energy consumption. But although we gain efficiency from an energy point of view we also avoid engaging in more deep thinking. The author does not try to entirely push as away from these shortcuts but to make us more aware that many times we should engage in deeper thinking, especially when we are in need of constant innovation.

Once we engage in deeper thinking, Tim Hurson makes a distinction between reproductive and productive thinking. The first one is where we refine what is already known, meaning we can only make incremental changes. The second one is about “generating the new” and coming up with breakthrough innovations.

The author defines productive thinking as a framework for thinking better and proposes a six-step model to guide the process:

Step 1: What’s going on?

Step 2: What’s Success?

Step 3: What’s the Question?

Step 4: Generate Answers

Step 5: Forge the Solution

Step 6: Align Resources

I would recommend everyone to take a look at the process in the book (or in other blogs if someone else has talked more deeply about it) because it is very straight forward, simple and can be applied in any situation. If time to read is an issue then a good approach can be to read the summaries after each chapter to have a starting point and a sense of what we need to achieve in each step.

But even though we want to use this model or not, if we at least want to be better at productive thinking there are three specific things we must consider in order to succeed:

  • Creative and Critical Thinking. These are the black and white of good thinking. We need creative thinking to generate ideas and to expand them. We need critical thinking to analyze these ideas and select the best ones. The key is not to use them both at the same time because if done so they start cancelling each other and we lose the benefits of both ways of thinking. So a good approach is to start always with a creative view, generating as much ideas as we can without any judgment, and then change to critical thinking to analyze them, judge them and narrow the selection.
  • Stay Longer in the Question. Many times the solution to a problem is the right one, but the problem was not the one in need of a solution. The author encourages us to stay longer in this stage and to really understand what is the underlying problem. This means to be more tolerant with ambiguity and to constantly challenge assumptions. If the question is not correctly defined then all the following efforts will be worthless.

  • Good Brainstorming: Brainstorming can help us liberate our minds and let us think outside the box. There are for rules for good brainstorming:

  1. Criticism is ruled out
  2. Freewheeling is welcomed
  3. Quantity is wanted
  4. Combination and improvement are sought

Think Better December 7, 2009

Posted by James Bender in Think Better, [Books] Ways of Thinking.
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Tim Hurson’s Think Better was a decent read attempting to change the way I approach problem solving. His anecdotal stories where interesting. I particularly enjoyed the notion that simple twine around an elephant’s leg will be enough to keep said elephant in place. The elephant was chained as a baby and is trained to think that the anklet demands they stay put–despite the fact they they could easily break the twine. Often times, people get caught in this elephant mentality. We accept a small set of circumstances to define our broader environment. This limits innovation, creativity, and the willingness to change to stay ahead of the curve. In business, an unwillingness to look in new directions and “break the twine” will likely spell the demise of the firm. The biggest problem is that most businesses are unwilling to recognize that they are bound by the twine. Other businesses recognize the twine, but are unwilling to break it and move in a new direction.

Hurson quickly moves towards what he describes as the Productive Thinking Model. The interesting thought here is that Hurson believes that one model can be adapted to fit every situation. I tend to agree with Roger Martin’s Opposable Mind in that there is no way to model the world. But Hurson makes some valid overarching points. The stepwise structure delivered is:
What’s Going on?
What’s Success?
What’s the Question?
Generate Answers
Forge the Solution
Align Resources

Most of these ideals have been preached consistently throughout the DST class. This gives Hurson credibility. But I am tired of “magic framework” proclamations. The highlight of the book were the quotes Hurson would reference before each chapter. I’ll leave you with those and you can feel confident that you have a extracted the most value from the book.

“Creativity is not an escape from disciplined thinking. It is an escape with disciplined thinking.” — Jerry Hirschberg

“Discontent is the 1st step in the progress of a nation or a man.” –Oscar Wilde

“We can see the past but not influence. We can influence the future but not see it.” — Stewart Brand