Thinking and intelligence are different. Intelligence is innate capability, and thinking is how you use it. As a skill thinking is improvable. What differentiates great and not-so-great companies is how they think, and how they help all their employees learn to think more effectively. If I really want to improve my performance, a really good question is “What’s the best way to think about it?” A short introductory video can be found at How Good Thinking Drives Improvement and Innovation
While many resources recommend what to do, the Good Thinking Curriculum is unique in offering practical hands on instruction on HOW to actually lead – how to generate a wide variety of ideas, how to collaborate to build both great decisions and great buy-in, and how to successfully implement decisions.
This month I will summarize my approach to Idea Generating Skills. This is intended to be a fundamental starting point. Many additional ideation styles support many different tasks and responsibilities. I would recommend each leader know how to use all of the following four idea generating skills as they engage their teams to complete tasks more productively.
Notice the idea searching categories: convergent ideas right now or in the future, and divergent ideas right now or in the future.
- Process Improvement: Identify and replace sources of waste with value-added steps.
- Creative Thinking Skills: Generate new ideas when you thought you couldn’t think of any more.
- Strategic Planning: Create an operational planning document that guides company leaders and employees.
- Scenario Planning: Consider alternative futures. Think with your team about the future in a very productive way.
In each of these “thinking styles”, the leader and team are supported by a specific series of questions that guide the team’s thinking. The questions most often are formatted by what I might call a “tool”
For example, a primary process improvement tool is a flow chart. Using Post Its, the team describes the current process that is producing disappointment. Subsequent tools/questions help the team describe and document the possible root causes, possible solutions, experimental data, and finally decision making criteria and selections. The flowchart and other tools are formats for data gathering and analysis of data. The flowchart takes on the role of a developing treasure map.
The other thinking skills have their own sets of questions introduced in the videos linked above.
In all cases the questions and tools do not tell participants what to think, but how for a period of time, through questions. The questions engage team member thinking to create their own ideas about each ideation situation. Better questions, better ideas. Better ideas, better behavior and results.
Many companies attempt to accomplish these ideation tasks randomly with a wide range of results. How do you currently exercise these four thinking skills – deliberately or randomly?
To read this and other articles please check out our other blog entries.
Independent trainer and meeting facilitator John Canfield helps clients build high performance business teams. Find out more about how he can help your company or organization at www.johncanfield.com and www.goodthinkingseries.com. Call or write 616-283-5588 | firstname.lastname@example.org.