I’m Thinking…

So you may have noticed that there were no posts on Thursday and Friday last week.  There’s a reason for this.

Last week was the coincidence of the annual Samaritan board meeting and the due date for my big business plan.  So I was busy, and since so much of the business plan was writing there wasn’t even a small desire to spend some of my break times writing for the blog.  So no posts.  (I’ll have another post on the business plan tomorrow or Wednesday, I hope)

Friday, after getting a whopping 84 minutes of sleep (not quite an all-nighter) we had a one day module on Critical Thinking.  Dr. Weinzimmer is one of my favorite profs (I don’t just say that because he grades the final comprehensive exam) but even the most interesting prof with an interesting topic can be tough after a short night of sleep, no matter how much caffeine one has ingested.

The reason for the module in critical thinking is that every manager has a tendency to slip into habits.  “That’s just the way we do things around here…”  And yesterday’s answers don’t always solve today’s problems nor will they be the best thing for tomorrow’s opportunities.

We spent part of the morning talking about critical thinking in the sense of innovation vs. creativity.  Creativity can’t be forced easily.  Innovation needs to be…it’s required for survival.

One of the shocking stats out of the class, for some people, is this:  a typical 5 year old has about 90% original thought.  A typical adult has about 5%.  Schooling and education, for the sake of efficiency as much as anything, tends to break the natural creativity God has given us.  We need to unlearn some bad habits from school to be creative and innovative.

Larry gave us a 5 step process for critical thinking:

  1. Opportunity/Problem Identification
  2. Immersion
  3. Incubation
  4. Insights
  5. Verification

With the first step, problem identification, asking the right question is crucial.  We tend to miss nuances because of what we expect to see, and often solutions don’t appear to us because we don’t imagine what can be done.  Focusing on the periphery may be the most helpful solution in some cases:  Levi Strauss made more money than any other person from the gold rush.

For incubation, having time to think without interruption.  Creative managers learn to shut down for a while and focus on nothing in particular while the mind subconsciously processes.  Agent K in MIB3 calls that “time for pie.”

We also spent some time talking about Vertical thinkers (those who tend towards details, logic, analysis) and Lateral thinkers (connections, divergent possibilities, more big picture) and how both are necessary for good critical thinking in organizations.

One of the experiments he did I’ve seen work out in meetings and decision-making before:  the strong lateral thinkers and the strong vertical thinkers frustrate each other.  So learning appreciation for the other thinking style is important.  Lateral thinkers tend to be great innovators.  Vertical thinkers tend towards adaptations.  Both are valuable and need to be considered!

The class was valuable, despite being exhausted.  There were a bunch of brain teaser activities showing that critical thinking isn’t natural for most of us, and then in a shocking moment at 2:30 Larry let us out of class early, with an assignment:  spend 2 hours doing nothing.  Nada.  Just let your mind wander and see what happens, and then write a paper on what you learned.

Due to the lack of sleep I am scheduling mine this week instead of last (I knew I’d fall asleep if I sat still and tried to think about nothing) but it will be a good experiment.  Doing nothing isn’t easy.  At least not for me.

But that will be another post….

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