Thursday, 27 June 2013

Incisive questions...

Well really this one should be my favourite component shouldn't it?! 

I don't have favourites though, and actually the first time I read about incisive questions it took me more than a few moments reflection to really 'get it', but I love it now.

So first the Nancy Kline explanation - 'removing assumptions that limit our ability to think for ourselves clearly and creatively' which to me essentially means removing those barriers that are clipping our wings when it comes to our finest thinking...capiche?!  I'll bring it to life with an example I think touches most of us at some point in our lives...time management.

- First you take the limiting assumption, which in this case is 'I am a victim of time pressure'
- Next you turn it into a liberating alternative assumption like 'I have a choice about how I spend my time'
- Then comes the incisive question 'if you know you have a choice, how would you re-structure your time?'

The process can apply to absolutely anything though, and if there's a particular area of your life you're feeling limited in or frustrated because you can't move beyond where you are now this beauty might just help to liberate your thinking.  Before you start the process, ask yourself these questions as a temperature check of where your thinking is at:
- what assumptions am I making that is limiting my thinking?
- is that assumption true?
- what's an alternative assumption I could make that would help my situation?
- with my new assumption in mind, how do I feel?

Just keep to the running order of limiting assumption > liberating alternative assumption > incisive question and it should work like a dream.  If you're a first timer then I'd strongly recommend getting someone to do this with you, and let that person be someone who you know will challenge you - it's all too easy to remain in the pit of despair and staleness!

Happy questioning x

Monday, 24 June 2013

We're all different...

We look different, smell different, have different it's no wonder we all think differently.  And welcoming different points of view brings us on to the next component of a thinking environment - Diversity. 

How diverse is your thinking environment?  The exact meaning of this component is described as 'welcoming divergent thinking and diverse group identities', so let's get questioning to explore...

- what was the last new idea you came up with?
- who was there when it happened?
- what were the circumstances when you came up with it?
- who do you have in your trusted circle inputting into your ideas?
- how would you describe their approach to new ideas?
- how does that description compare to your approach?
- what kind of person stimulates your best thinking?
- who do you know that thinks differently to you?
- how much time do you deliberately make sure you have with this person?
- is it enough?

The list could continue but I want you to use these to get your grey matter thinking in a different way about who you're surrounding yourself with...are they all mini-me's or a nice eclectic mix of varied thinkers?

The bottom line with diversity (inside or outside of a thinking environment) is that it should be on your priority list if you're after fresh and new thinking.  Surrounding ourselves with different people who operate in different ways will only challenge your assumptions and make you think differently. It won't be without it's challenges because let's face it having a multitude of outlooks and approaches can make for differing agendas, but if you can move through the barriers and see them as ways to facilitate your best thinking, everyone is a winner!

Happy reflecting x

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Just give me the facts...

Information.  Some people reckon it's power, Nancy Kline says it's the seventh component in a thinking environment, so let's explore...

This is where the polar opposite of emotions comes in - just giving the factual information for a situation with all the raw feelings removed.  Imagine the last time you were caught in the middle of a fiery discussion, loaded with emotions and everybody vying to get their point across. What would have happened if (delete as appropriate) mr/mrs/miss/ms/lord/lady rational had waded in to bring everybody back down to earth with the bare facts and got you focused again on what you were trying to achieve?

Not everybody has fact giving as a natural talent, and if you don't have it (which is absolutely fine by the way) it's going to be important to find those that are and surround yourself with them.  Yep, it might be time increase your circle of friends!

In the spirit of a thinking environment, you could more formally assign the role to someone in a meeting or discussion so you always know that no matter how emotive a situation gets or if you just get caught up in aspects of a decision you don't need to, you will be pulled back by your information giver.  If however you're reading this and thinking 'I don't know anybody who could take on that role no matter how much arm twisting I do' or it might be that you're flying solo and you're having to take on every role then fear not, I have a solution for that too.  Information doesn't have to come verbally from a person does it?  So how about a visual (A3 paper, flip chart, a slide, a post it...anything really) that has the facts on it for you.  You could have it up in the room, on your desktop, stick it on your mirror as you're getting ready - absolutely anywhere as long as it is in plain sight and clear. 

So, the next time you're heading into a discussion, a meeting, or some alone time working on a project before you start ask are you going to keep the factual information front and centre?

Happy planning x

Monday, 10 June 2013

It's just emotion...

Feelings. Quirky things, but they also have their place in the thinking environment.

When feelings take over the results can be extreme - everything from over zealous joy to the dark depths of depression...quite a spectrum.  So imagine the impact feelings have on your thinking - it's got big warning signs written all over it.  So what do we do?  Well we can't ignore them, they have a habit of getting louder and more vivid if we do that. Which leaves the option of paying attention to them and letting them be released..surely not?!  It's time for the stereotypical British stiff upper lip to be removed and embrace the feelings.

Feelings are emotive, unique and can be a de-railer if you try and suppress them.  They'll distract you and cloud your finest thinking which goes against pretty much every principle I've written about so far and those that are yet to be explored.  However they shouldn't be feared - after all what's the adage in all training relating to difficult conversations?  'You can only control you'...and that means your feelings!

Can you remember the last time you had a discussion with someone that got heated because it got all caught up with feelings, only to think a few days later after you've had time to reflect that actually it wasn't such a problem after all?  I've been there too many times than I care to share (although those that know me can probably do the maths!) and I wish I'd have let my emotions out in a more constructive way rather than a sudden explosion.

The way to embrace them in a thinking environment is to really let them out and be released.  This doesn't mean spontaneously standing up and shouting them out loud, or allotted agenda time for them ( let's face it doing it in a contrite and tidy way goes against what emotions are) - but there is somewhere in the middle that could help because largely the emotional outbursts happen when someone thinks their feelings are not being acknowledged.

For some, simply being asked how they are feeling will be enough to be able to talk about them and let go.  For others who perhaps don't feel like they are in the right environment or company to do that they'll need something different.  It might be that you speak to people before a meeting, or agree some principles before you start a meeting that you're in a safe environment and without people saying what they really think you won't get the best outcome (sounds a bit formal and 'worky' but I don't mean it to and it should work with non-work related things too).

Another activity I've seen done is 'heart storming' where the person leading a conversation gets everybody in the room to write on post its how they're feeling.  For the writer it means that their emotions have been noted and won't be forgotten, and in particular for a thinking environment it's one less thing to hold in your head to block your thoughts.  It's a double edged sword though - in the wrong hands it can become an emotionally charged mess so use with discretion and avoid this one if you're in two minds about where you could end up with it.

There's some personal responsibility with emotions as well, and specifically what you're doing to let them out.  Before you head into a situation that you have some emotional baggage around, see if there's a safe place to park it.  Safe might mean; somewhere you know you won't forget it when the opportunity for the 'emotional release' comes up or even sharing it with someone else so you put the emotion into perspective.  Whatever it means to you, going in packed with emotional charge will lead to an explosion so make sure no matter what the situation you know your emotions can come out in a safe way.

Happy weekend xx

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Come on, you can do it.

Sometimes a little encouragement is all we need, so it's just as well it's the next component in a thinking environment.

In this case, it's all about giving courage to go to the unpopular or alternative ideas and let's face it - we all need a gentle nudge to go to those places sometimes.

Cast your mind back to the last time you were in a group of people and someone said something that you'd been thinking all along but didn't say it.  Imagine that you didn't say it because it was a bit extreme or the polar opposite to what you would do normally.  What would the impact have been if someone had given you some encouragement to speak out?  I'm guessing you'd have got in there sooner, that's what!

This one involves a bit of digging though, because I reckon what that encouragement looks like is going to be different depending on who you are.  It might be a pep talk before a meeting, someone throwing you a friendly smile and nod, or someone being really blunt with you telling you to get your point across no matter how left field it might be.  The digging needs to be two-fold though - finding out what you personally need as encouragement as well as what those around you need to gee them along. 

It can be really straight forward in the question that you ask yourself (or others), so here are some examples:
- what helps you get thoughts out?
- what gives you courage to speak out?
- what would make you feel comfortable to suggest something a bit different?

Getting these thoughts out will let your finest thinking come through, because holding onto thoughts in your head will only ever be a distraction.  If you need anymore encouragement to crack on with finding out what helps you, remember that situation when somebody said what you were thinking and they got praised for it (and maybe even a pay rise and promotion - extreme I know but I'm trying to drum up some emotion here!), were you kicking yourself?

So, what are you waiting for?  Have some reflection time now to work out what is going to help you and plan in when you're going to have the conversation with others to find out what encouragement they need. It's going to feel liberating, I promise!

Happy encouraging xx