March 12, 2012

As a Leader, How Often do You Think Differently?

Thinking differently means approaching your daily challenges and habits in new, innovative ways. One of the best ways to think differently is to challenge assumptions.
Every time you approach a problem, the natural thing to do is the thing you have always done. You approach the situation by bringing your accumulated knowledge and experience. The more experienced and skilled you are, the more likely you are to assume certain outcomes.
One of the most powerful ways to generate new ideas is to challenge assumption.
Thinkertoys Book

Lately, I've been using Michael Michalko's book Thinkertoys as a resource in my curriculum development and training classes. Michalko continually asks his readers to challenge assumptions.
Sometimes the way you frame a problem contains an assumption that prevents you from solving it. This frame can stop you from accepting or even looking for innovative ideas.
Here's one fun Reverse Assumption Exercise to get you going – we'll use a restaurant for this example.
1. List some common assumptions about restaurants:
·                                 Restaurants have menus that are written, verbal, or implied
·                                 Restaurants charge money for food
·                                 Restaurants serve food
2. To initiate new ideas and create thinking you will now reverse each assumption, or write down what the opposite of each statement.
·                                 Restaurants have no menus of any kind
·                                 Restaurants give food away for free
·                                 Restaurants do not serve food of any kind
3. Now ask yourself how you would accomplish each reversal.
·                                 How can you have a restaurant that has no menu of any kind and still have viable business?
·                                 Could you give food away for free and still maintain profitability?
·                                 What if you did not serve food – could you generate revenue?
Reverse assumptions challenge your conventional thinking patterns and free up new ideas to come together in thought provoking ways.
What assumptions do you make about situations in your personal and professional life? If you reversed those assumptions, would you be able to generate new approaches and create solutions to problems you are trying to solve?
As a leader, how often do you think differently? How often do you brainstorm? How often do you hunt for solutions in new environments?
Thinking differently is easier said than done. And, almost anyone who consistently makes the effort to think differently can think differently.  Once you learn how to do it, you'll find that you have some truly creative ideas and innovative solutions.

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