With all the talk about INNOVATION going on today, there's still relatively little talk about THINKING. And yet, thinking, creative, rational, strategic, collaborative thinking is the foundation of innovation. Tim Hurson's new book "Think Better" is an important addition to the innovation literature. Tim has kindly given us some chapter excerpts to whet your appetite. We highly recommend that you check out the entire book.
When you read the excerpt from Chapter 3, think about "fossil ideas" that are lurking in your life and in your organization.
Better Thinking (your company's future depends on it ... and so does yours) by Tim Hurson
From Chapter 1 ... Why Think Better
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 its potential to increase your chances of finding, developing, and ultimately implementing unexpected connections. Although I’ve been helping people and companies discover unexpected connections for years, I am consistently astonished when they appear ... sometimes in an instant, sometimes after months or even years of searching. They seem to be in limitless supply: an infinite number of AHAs waiting to be discovered.
From Chapter 2 Monkey Mind, Gator Brain and the Elephant's Tether
There’s an interesting biological yardstick called the RMR, which stands for resting metabolic rate. Your RMR is the amount of energy your body needs just to stay alive. Your brain, that mysterious cluster of ganglia, neurons, axons, dendrites, gray and white matter, lobes, synapses (and empty space!), represents about 2 percent of your total body mass (to get a sense of that ratio, imagine one teaspoon of sugar in a standard cup of coffee). Just to keep you alive, your brain requires a disproportionate amount of energy. At rest, it consumes about 20 percent of the oxygen you breathe and the calories you burn (imagine your coffee with 10 teaspoons of sugar!). That’s more than your heart (10 percent), your lungs (10 percent), and your kidneys (7 percent). And that 20 percent gobbled up by your brain is just in a resting state. When you’re really thinking, that proportion can go way up. Chess masters, for example, have been known to sweat out between 7 and 10 pounds of fluid during a two-hour chess match.
So thinking ... truly focused thinking, which includes mental activities such as observing, remembering, wondering, imagining, inquiring, interpreting, evaluating, judging, identifying, supposing, composing, comparing, analyzing, calculating, and even metacognition (thinking about thinking) ...is hard work. Which, as Ford said, is probably why so few people actually do it.
You may be saying to yourself, "Don’t be silly. I’m thinking all the time. I never stop thinking. I think while I work, while I talk, while I drive. In fact, I’m thinking while I read these words." Well, it probably seems as though you’re thinking all the time, but like the rest of your body, your brain uses a variety of strategies and tricks to minimize the energy it requires, and its most effective strategy for conserving brain energy is actually not to think at all. In fact, most of the time your brain is involved in just one of three activities: distraction, reaction, or following well-worn patterns...
... Like the distraction of monkey mind and the split-second reaction of gator brain, the tethering effect of following well-worn patterns can be a major barrier to thinking. In India, elephant wranglers, or mahouts, prevent elephant calves from wandering by chaining one of the animal’s legs to a stake deeply embedded in the ground. Try as they might, the young elephants aren’t strong enough either to break their chains or dislodge the stake. Attempting to do so is not only fruitless but uncomfortable as the chain tightens around their legs. Pretty soon they stop trying. As adults, elephants are kept in place with a length of woven hemp (much cheaper and more convenient than a chain) tied to a stake hammered into the ground with a few strokes. Full-grown elephants can pull away from their tethers easily, but they don’t. They have a deeply ingrained pattern that tells them that escape is impossible. For the elephants, the pattern has become more powerful than the data.
This book is about harnessing monkey mind, taming the gator, and cutting the elephant’s tether.
From Chapter 3 Kaizen vs Tenkaizen
I’ve had countless experiences with organizations that have based entire systems on fossil ideas. Those organizations work on the "that’s the way we do things around here" principle not because people are actively opposed to new ideas but because the old ideas seem so natural. After all, they still work (more or less), so why challenge them? Why do we tend to schedule meetings for an hour even though most of them probably don’t need anywhere near 60 minutes and some might require a lot more? Why is the plug for your computer behind your desk instead of on it? Why is it at foot height rather than hand height? Why do we cc so many people on our e-mails? Why do you get cc’ed on so many e-mails? Why do we use the term cc anyway? Do you even have carbon paper in your office? When you visit someone
else’s place of work, why do receptionists and security guards always ask you to take a seat? Because you look tired? Because they don’t want you hanging around their desks? If you work in a large organization (unless it’s Google, Apple, or the like), all your common meeting rooms are probably mini-boardrooms with tables surrounded by chairs. Why? Are you planning to have dinner? Come to think of it, why are all boardrooms modeled after private dining rooms? Why is the top row of your telephone keypad labeled 1 2 3, whereas the top row of your calculator is 7 8 9? Because both the telephone company and the calculator company say, "That’s the way we do things around here."
Take a look around your home or work environment. See if you can identify how many things you, your family, or your colleagues do in the basic reproductive thinking mode. This may be harder to do than you think. These fossilized reproductive patterns are so strong and seem so "right" that we usually don’t even notice that they are there. Here’s a quick test. I’ll bet that when you pop bread into your toaster, you always do so with the "bottom" of the bread down. Why? There is no real bottom of the bread. It doesn’t make any difference which edge of the bread is up or down when you toast it, but it just seems natural to put the bottom edge down. Why not toast your slice sideways? It might be easier to take out of the toaster when it’s done...
Kaizen is characterized by the principle of incremental change. It holds that each day a process can be made a little bit better than it was the day before. Kaizen has provided substantial benefits. It has been used to make production lines more reliable, reduce medical errors, and speed up emergency response times. But kaizen has its limits. No amount of incremental change will turn an adding machine into a spreadsheet.
Here’s one way to visualize the kind of incremental change...and its limitations...represented by kaizen thinking. Imagine taking an excellent print of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, placing it on a high-end color copier, and pushing the button. Out will come a pretty good but slightly inferior version of the original. Now copy the copy, copy that copy, and so on. Each copy will be a slightly less faithful version of the last. Let’s say you do this a hundred times, so your final version is still recognizable, but its colors are
wrong, it’s blurry, it’s lost its magic.
Now take your hundred sheets and examine them in reverse order. As you flip through the pages, you see that each one is an improvement over the last; each image is incrementally better than the one before it. Finally, you have an image almost indistinguishable from Leonardo’s painting: near perfection. But as beautiful as it is, it will never be anything other than the Mona Lisa. No matter how many pages there are in your sequence, it will never become a Picasso.
Productive thinking is radically different. Productive thinking is about tenkaizen, or good revolution. Reproductive thinking can evolve the perfect buggy whip, but only productive thinking can
imagine a car.
From Chapter 6 Productive Thinking By Design
Productive thinking is more than just a collection of thinking tools. It is a framework for thinking better. I often use the analogy of a coat rack to describe the model. A coat rack provides capacity, structure, and stability; you provide the coats. In the same way, the Productive Thinking Model provides a disciplined framework for addressing problems that combines, balances, and orchestrates creative thinking and critical thinking. The model can be used with a wide variety of tools, such DRIVE, a powerful way to develop criteria for success, and C5, a technique for extracting the real gold from the long lists of ideas you generate.
In the next several chapters I’ll introduce you to some tools that may amaze you with their simplicity and power. Feel free to use them all. You’ll find that productive thinking is a practical, easy-to-learn process that will help you understand more clearly, think more creatively, and plan more effectively. It builds on over 50 years of research and experimentation on effective problem-solving methodologies.