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Productive Thinking in Groups

There’s a mandate in the corporate world that’s been called the Innovation Imperative. In just about any major organization, people hear it several times a day: Innovate or Die.

It’s assumed that people will know what being innovative actually means. And how to do it.

So employees are routinely herded into innovation sessions, where they’re expected to generate new thinking about products or services, corporate structures, or production processes. More often than not, they walk out of those sessions having accomplished very little.

Imagine someone saying to you, “Ok, go run the marathon.” Unless you’d trained for a marathon before, you wouldn’t have a clue what to do first. You wouldn’t know how to train, how to develop yourself, how to eat, how to avoid injuries, or even how to effectively measure your progress.

And yet, that’s exactly the approach most organizations take when they ask people to put their brains into high gear and think differently.

Whether you want to produce high quality running or high quality thinking, you have to learn how. No matter how athletic you are or how big your brain is, you can improve your performance exponentially by taking a structured approach to the task.

PhidippidesIf you’re a marathoner, your routine will include running sprints and endurance, uphill and flat. You’ll do muscle training, you’ll eat differently, and you’ll learn the importance of vaseline and strategically placed bandaids. If you’re smart, you’ll also get a coach. As a result of all those structures, routines, and coaching, hundreds of thousands of modern-day marathoners accomplish the same 26 mile feat that killed a strapping young Greek warrior named Phidippides. Most of them are older than Phidippides was. And it’s a good bet that a large number of them run faster than Phidippides did. How is it possible that middle-aged business men and women can perform better than a young warrior? It’s because they learned how.

We can do the same for people who need to think more creatively and more productively. We’ve developed structures, sub-routines, and a system of coaching that helps people think better. Guaranteed.

When groups of people need to think better, they are more likely to succeed when a skillful facilitator leads them through a structured process. Like a coach in the world of sports, a skillful facilitator is someone who’s studied the game, understands the pitfalls and how to correct for them, and can bring out the talents of each player so the team performs to its potential.

On two fronts, the academic research is clear: When people learn and use thinking structures and skills, they can generate more ideas, better ideas, more often. And when groups of people are well-facilitated through a structured thinking process, they are more productive.

Will, Skill, Drill

Being more creative is all about will, skill and drill.

First, you have to want to. That’s the will. You have to have the attitude that there’s always a better way. You have to be dissatisfied.

What that means is that every itch is an opportunity. You don’t have to look far to find […]

Entraining Part 3: Language

In the early days of TV, there was a popular afternoon program called Queen for a Day. It took ordinary American housewives, often in unfortunate circumstances, and made them feel special — with attention, gifts, and tiaras. Very touching. Of course, once they went home, these women faced the same realities they had the day […]

Amazon Products Visualization

A friend sent this link the other day. Somebody has worked out how to create a Mindmap of Amazon products. Check it out here.

Entraining Part 2: Quick Wins

Last week, I wrote about the great corporate training myth — the misguided belief that you can get people to change their behaviors as a result of a one-day (if that!) “training” session:

What we do need are practical approaches that entrain new skills and new behaviors in people so they actually stick — and […]

The Training Hoax

How many emails do you get a week from organizations selling programs to train you or your people to ____________? (you fill in the blank)

Corporate training has become the Emperor’s New Clothes of modern business. It’s a hoax. We send people away to make them into better leaders, more creative thinkers, better team players. […]

The Limits of Vision

A couple of weeks ago I bought a pair of eyeglasses. They’re called SuperFocus. They’re the geekiest glasses I’ve ever seen. And the best I’ve ever seen through.

Like a lot of people my age, I need different strengths of glasses — for regular reading, computer reading, and road-sign reading. In my case I have […]

A Little on the Fence

Every September, ThinkX sponsors Mindcamp, a not-for-profit creativity retreat. We do it to offer other not-for-profits and individuals a plunge into the world of creativity. Most people come away from it with a renewed sense of themselves and their potential.

A few days ago, we received an email from a woman who was considering coming […]

The Safe Path

101

The safe path is the one you already know. It leads to where you’ve already been.

One of the things I notice as I work with organizations around the world is that the more expert people are – the better their reputations as knowledgeable doctors or lawyers or engineers or managers – the less likely […]

Three Tools to Help You Think Better

As someone who travels the world consulting with and training corporations in strategic, organizational, and innovation problem-solving, I’m often asked, “What are most common problems you see in the companies you work with?” It only takes a moment to answer. There are three:

One. Solving wrong problems. Almost everywhere I go, I see rooms full […]