I act without thinking 

I do not understand what I am doing

I am literally muddling along my activities and regularly feel confused.

I am in a state of thinking disutopia.

 Sound familiar?

At various points throughout the day, it should not be of surprise to you if you find yourself in a similar  scenario. The consequences of stress, increased workloads, and pressure to deliver more quickly mean that we enter into ‘fire fighting’ mode where it seems the one thing that can actually help us, our ability to think more fully, we do less of.

It is said that in the age of recession the first things that get chopped off the budgets are Marketing and Training – the two functions that are the direct touchpoints of your two greatest assets – your consumers and your people. It is of little surprise that the most successful companies in the world buck this trend, and do the exact opposite – they invest more and as Ken Chenault of American Express says:

 ‘ Invest in your own success while others are afraid and burying their heads…to drive clear competitive advantage.’ 

 If we were companies…

If we as individuals thought of ourselves more as companies I wonder what course of action we would take. Picture the scene of recessionary pressure hitting, not within our companies, but within our heads. Just how far should we speculate to accumulate?

The sense of loss we feel as our economy (our personal growth) slows to an all time low. As the market tries to re-adjust (as we try and firefight) how would we, as CEO’s of ourselves, act to re-charge our economies?

To take this comparison one step further, we know that the winners of every recession are the companies that stimulate the right type of innovation, that bring new demand to the market, and can provide solutions that were not apparent before. One of my favourite examples here is that of Galvin Manufacturing, who started out selling battery eliminators in 1928, a year before the Great Depression. But 2 years later an opportunity came along and company founder Paul V. Galvin saw the potential in a new device; car radios. That company would later become what you and I know as Motorola, creating a new market and becoming a global leader in communications technologies.

Skip forward 73 years, and in 2001, fresh from the Enron scandal, Apple launched the iPod. The start of the journey of a number of leading products that now dominate the market.

Staying in the mode of ourselves as companies, would we ever cut down on the very thing that would make us more productive, our brain (our own innovation centres) that enchance our ability to think through more options, more powerfully to deliver better market solutions?

If the answer is yes then congratulations you have just arrived at a state of thinking disutopia and a double dip recession is sure to follow.

This may sound extreme, but it is quite true. If we can’t find new ways to arrive at better solutions, we will never be truly effective, and meet our full potential, across all the situations in our lives.

The way forward

So if we want to take action and have more insight into how we can be successful and develop our potential when faced with the challenges mentioned above, one way forward is to ask ourselves what being ‘right’, or ‘wrong’ actually means here – in practical terms. If we follow the thinking foundations laid by Edward de Bono we can begin to unpick the way to success. In De Bono’s ‘Practical Thinking: 4 ways to be right, 5 ways to be wrong, 5 ways to understand’  he questions how, in arguments, both sides always believe they are right? How it is that no one ever makes a mistake on purpose but that mistakes get made? His theme of everyday thinking reveals to us how the mind actually works – not how philosophers think it should work.

He bases the book on a practical experiment performed with hundreds of people who have attended his talks. During the lecture a tall rectangular box that happens to be on the table abruptly,  falls onto the table. He asks the audience to write down their explanation for what might have caused this.

Their responses were analyzed to discover the ways in which people think – the forms of being ‘right’, and the kinds of mistakes in practical thinking that they make. Because there is a lack of information (it is just a black box that falls over, deBono gives the audience no clues as to what has happened), the experiment was ideal for seeing what (incorrect) assumptions people make, to what depth people solve a problem, and the overall strategy people use to think. It exposes many of the common mistakes that we make, and is a fascinating read.

Our own ‘black box’ solution is rooted in how we evade the daily mistakes in our life such as seeing only part of the problem,  and selecting ideas that do not fit the facts  and how we can avoid our habitual mistakes from becoming routines.

As Tony Robbins puts it:

 ‘ If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.’

 We each have our own black box, and our own black box solution, and I’m keen to know what approaches or techniques you use to avoid thinking disutopia in a very real and practical sense

Answers on a postcard (or in the comments) please.

Han-Son Lee