Think better is about Productive Thinking ― why it’s important, how it works, and how to use it at work, at home, and at play. Productive Thinking is a game changer ― a practical, easy-to-learn, repeatable process that helps people understand more clearly, think more creatively, and plan more effectively. It’s based on the thinking strategies that people we celebrate for their creativity have been using for centuries.
The model presents a structured framework for solving problems creatively. You can use it on your own or in a group.
The model consists of six steps, as follows:
STEP 1: What’s going on?
[bluebox] Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation. OSCAR WILDE.[/bluebox]
Finding out what’s going on, discovering the real itch, setting the context for thinking, and establishing a compelling Target Future–all these things take time. Don’t shortchange this step.
What’s going on? provides the foundation on which you will build your entire thinking structure. Thus, it’s important to immerse yourself in it. In some cases, a robust ‘what’s going on?’ session, followed by a period of mental incubation (going for a walk, ‘sleeping on it’, or simply turning your attention to other things for a while), may be all you need to solve your problem or come up with a brilliant new idea.
STEP 2: What’s success?
[bluebox]We can see the past but not influence it. We can influence the future but not see it. STEWART BRAND[/bluebox]
What’s success? consists of two substeps. The first is to robustly imagine an ideal future in which your issue is resolved: to create a powerful motivation to reach your Target Future. The second is to establish clear, observable Success Criteria that can be used in subsequent phases of the productive thinking process to evaluate potential solutions.
The outcome of this phase is Future Pull: a clear and compelling vision of a future in which the issue has been resolved, the Target Future has been achieved, and a set of observable Success criteria have been stated that can be used to evaluate both potential solutions and outcomes.
STEP 3: What’s the question?
What’s the question is a pivotal step in the Productive Thinking Model. In it you diverge to generate as many problem questions as possible and then converge to focus on one or more Catalytic Questions that if answered will create the potential to get to your Target Future.
- Using divergent, creative thinking, list as many problem questions as possible in the form ‘How might I…’ or ‘How might We…’
- Using convergent, critical thinking, select one or more Catalytic questions that if answered will create the potential to get to your Target Future.
The outcome of this step is a clear articulation of the essential problems or opportunities in the form of one or more Catalytic Questions that invite ideas for solution.
STEP 4: Generate answers
I often refer to this step as the sales call step of productive thinking. Salespeople often talk about their hit rates: For some it’s 1 success in 10 qualified leads, for others 1 in 20, and so on. For unqualified leads–cold calls–the ratio is much lower, perhaps 1 sale for every 200 calls.
When you try to generate ideas, think of yourself as a salesperson knocking on a whole subdivision of doors. Some won’t open at all, some will open a suspicious crack, and some will slam in your face. But the more doors you knock on, the greater your chances of being invited in.
STEP 5: Forge the solution
[bluebox]Ideas are not solutions; they are the raw material of solutions. ARTHUR VANGUNDY.[/bluebox]
One of my favorite tools in the productive thinking arsenal is called POWER. Just as wood and wind can transform the smallest spark into a raging forest fire, so too can POWER transform an embryonic idea into a robust solution. POWER can supercharge almost any idea.
POWER is an acronym for Positives, Objections, What else, Enhancements, and Remedies. POWER asks five basic questions:
- Positives: What’s good about the idea? Why might it succeed?
- Objections: What are the idea’s flaws? Why might it fail?
- What else?: What else might be in the idea that hasn’t been articulated yet?
- Enhancements: How might the positives be made even stronger?
- Remedies: How might the objections be overcome?
STEP 6: Align resources
In this last step, you identify the people and other resources that you need in order to implement your solution.