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New levels of thinking


Einstein said (and I paraphrase) that a problem could not be solved by the level of thinking that created the problem. OK, so how does one go about 'generating' a new level of thinking?

7 Responses

  1. Thinking outside the box
    Hi Geoff

    I think what Einstein was getting at was that we need to change our mindset to solve a problem, as in thinking laterally or from a different perspective. This could be from someone else’s perspective, from our own logical perspective, our creative perspective etc. I suppose you could liken this propose to a 360 degree appraisal.


  2. create new conditions to think in
    I don’t know about specific techniques (mindmapping, 6 hats or whatever) as they are often a bit faddy, but if you want to get new thinking then I believe that you at least need to create different conditions to the usual thinking space.

    I guess you would know the sorts of conditions that participants might usually work in, but here are a few ways I usually try to crack ideas:
    – Do NOT get people to think at their usual workspace/desk
    – Get moving – take a couple of key minds on your problem and go for a walk while you talk it through
    – Groups can generate lots of ideas, but all too often brainstorming sessions can fall flat because people self-censor in front of others – get them to think of their ideas individually before bringing them together
    – Get fresh blood in – they are more likely to avoid furrows or evaluate others ideas dispassionately
    – If you need to brief new parties, get two thinkers you know are in conflict to do this together – it will reveal their fault lines and may give them fresh perspective too
    – Take people off site and demonstrate that their input is clearly valued and requested – a mind buttered in praise moves quicker
    – Don’t let people sit down in storming sessions – best thinking room I ever saw was oval (no corners to hide in) and had an insufficient number of uncomfortable little stools to force everyone to stand up – and one entire wall was whiteboard so you could doodle huge diagrams to map out thoughts (it is at the DVLA of all places!)
    – if it is a small number of people, getting them to simply talk things through AT LENGTH, without the intervention of note taking or whatever, can get them in to new territory – problems are often discussed in a team, but not necessarily in great length, so each time covers new ground – this really only works in small groups though, otherwise some idiot will go on at great length and dominate things (much like I appear to be doing).

  3. Time to Think
    Hi Geoff

    You could take a look at a book called Time To Think, by Nancy Kline

    I found it great and have used the technique very successfully during coaching sessions.


  4. Take a look at the 3 laws of performance
    A different physical environment can certainly help people generate more options, ideas etc, including more ‘higher quality’ ones.

    I’m drawn by the notion that we may be stuck in our language, that new levels of thinking require new patterns of language – in the conversations we have with ourselves as well as others, and that the language is not limited to the words we say and write, but also to the ‘unspoken, unwritten’ communications we give out, often times without being aware we’re doing this… or of the messages being received by others…

    The 3 Laws Of Performance is a book by Steve Zaffron & Dave Logan. It’s a fascinating read, especially if you are interested in any form of organisational, cultural or relationship changes, conflict between individuals or groups, motivating people and so on (I know, a wide church!)

    Law 1 – how people perform correlates to how situations occur to them.

    We want new thinking because we’re not getting anywhere with our current thinking. People see things in a certain way, and this drives their behaviour. People get stuck, organisations get stuck because that’s the only way things can be, given the way those involved see the present and presume the future to be.

    Law 2 – how a situation occurs arises in language

    The conversations we have with ourselves, those around us, consciously and otherwise, verbally & otherwise, shape the way we see things and affect the way the world around us, in particular, other people, behave as a result. Employ different language (I didn’t say ‘a’ different language, this isn’t about swapping French for English, for example!) and you get different situations, and that gives rise to different performance.

    Law 3 – future-based language transforms how situations occur to people

    Students of the Solutions Focus ( will be very familiar with this concept. So, future-oriented language, different to language used before, will enable situations to occur to people in a different way, and this will give rise to different levels & kinds of performance.

    Don’t believe me? Ask anybody who’s been through just a few weeks of basic training in the military about how different they see things, and how confident they are in doing things they’d never have believed possible for them just a few weeks before…

    So, take a read – it’s a readily accessible book.



  5. A few more ideas on creativity…

    Dan Roddy, your answer was pretty much all I wanted to say. Really captured the core concept.

    I just like to add (or emphasise) a few points.

    Use random systematically.

    Shifting from one side of the search space to another sometimes requires a bold move. You may get there by bold thinking or being really dramatic, but sometimes a simple random idea dropped in can do all the wonders. I suggest you should have some random stuff in that oval room. Props, magazines, paintings (especially those that are vague so you can imagine what you like),  statues, unusual items and so on. Random stuff  in the environment may even work unconsciously on the mind, since you may see something in your peripheral and 10 minutes later a new association is formed in your mind.  

    Use incubation.

    Think hard, work hard, then do nothing. Yes, doing nothing is a great activity while you get to attend to your errands, your mind works in the background. Then suddenly you know the answer and you may come across it in the most unusual situations. (such as Archimedes in a bath tub!). New research shows that the reason incubation works is because by letting go of the subject, we allow the brain to forget certain concepts or links. This allows the brain to get rid of some potentially limiting associations that keeps it focused on only one area of solutions. When the brain is freed, it can form new associations which eventually leads to the Eureka moment.

    You can try Creativity and Innovation Training Materials for more ideas.

    Ehsan Honary

  6. Sticky Wisdom

    I would strongly recommend a book called Sticky Wisdom from the innovation company ?Whatif! It is a light read with some great ideas and real examples for getting people to open up their thinking and allow ideas to be nurtured. Some of their suggestions have already been mentioned in previous posts but there are plenty more.

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