August Brainstorm

Aug 22 2006 by Jurgen Wolff Print This Article

As I write this, it has become obvious that some people are exerting a lot of creativity for destructive ends. I hope the rest of us can be as creative (or more so) in the interests of peace. For now, some ideas I hope you'll find useful.

1: Get More With a Metaphor

There has been a lot of attention lately on the power of story-telling and metaphors in business, but using them is also an interesting approach to dealing with personal challenges. Here's a simple four-step process I've come up with and found useful:

1. Pick a challenge or problem;

2. Create a metaphor (or image, which is a visual metaphor) for how you're handling it or how it feels;

3. Create a metaphor or image for how you'd like to be handling it;

4. Decide what you'd have to do in order to act in a way that fits the new metaphor or image (and then do it!)

ACTION: If you'd like to change the way you are handling a challenge, try the four steps above.

2: Do You Make These Mistakes?

A team of business consultants recently wrote an article in the McKinsey Quarterly about four traps executives often fall into when a business is failing. I was struck by how often these same mistakes occur on an individual level:

1.Confirmation bias. We look for information that reinforces what we already believe and ignore information that doesn't.

2. The sunk cost fallacy. When we've already spent too much money (or time), we invest yet more. Your grandmother knew this as, "Throwing good money after bad."

3. Escalation of commitment. Not giving up becomes a matter of pride—even when giving up would be the sensible thing to do.

4. Anchoring and adjustment. We raise our estimate of the eventual pay-off because we've invested so much time or effort.

ACTION: The consultants suggest getting somebody who has no stake in the issue to evaluate it. You can do the same by asking a friend to assess whether you are guilty of any of the above mistakes—but only if hearing the truth won't ruin the friendship. Otherwise, a one-off session with a counsellor or business coach might be a better solution.

3: Is Your Thinking Asset-Based or Deficit Based?

On the Tom Peters website there's an interview with Kathryn D. Cramer, a psychologist who has written the book, "Change the Way You See Everything." She points out that 80% of the time we tend to be alert for what's not working, whereas research has shown that focusing on what we do well is the key to accelerating progress.

Why do we focus on the negative? Because we are trained to. She points out that up until we are three or four years old, just about anything we do is greeted with applause and appreciation by the adults in our lives. But when we get to school, the focus changes to what we are doing wrong, and it stays that way right through university.

Cramer says, "Asset-based thinking is a choice…We say you should focus 80% of your thinking on what is working, what could work, the strengths, all that upside territory."

ACTION: If you'd like to change your focus, Cramer suggests a few easy and practical ways to start. First, on your commute home or before going to sleep every day, ask yourself "What went right today?" When you notice someone doing something that works, ask, "How did you do that?" Their first response may be vague, so dig down, because actually answering you in detail will help them integrate the process and give them extra confidence (and you'll learn something).

4: Beating the Time Nibblers

Here are three ways to save time, from Suzanne Falter-Barns, who is an expert in helping writers and others to get recognition (see for more information about her services):

1. Never throw out directions. Type the directions into your computer and keep a print-out in a file in your desk or in your car, possibly sorted into personal and business categories.

2. Make fewer trips to the cash machine. Get more cash out and keep some of it in a small safe at home.

3. File instructions and warranties where you can find them. Buy an accordion file that's alphabetically organized. Staple the purchase receipt to the warranty information in case you need to return something for repair.

ACTION: If any of these would help you keep your time from being nibbled away by annoying searches and errands, give them a try.

5: Become a Co-Conspirator

There's a wonderful story about Winston Churchill being approached by the hostess at a fancy party. She told him she'd spotted one of the other guests putting one of her antique salt shakers into his pocket and didn't know what to do.

Churchill told her he'd handle it. He put a similar salt shaker in his own pocket, sidled up to the other man. "I think we've been spotted," he said, showing the salt shaker in his pocket. "We'd better put these back." Mission accomplished.

ACTION: If you're finding it difficult to communicate with someone, consider how you could turn the situation around so that instead of being confrontational you become co-conspirators.

6: And a Quote to consider

"Extraordinary people visualize not what is possible or probable, but rather what is impossible. And by visualizing the impossible, they begin to see it as possible."

Cheri Carter-Scott

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About The Author

Jurgen Wolff
Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen Wolff is a writer, teacher, and hypnotherapist. His goal is to help individuals liberate their own creativity through specific techniques that can be used at work as well as at home. His recent books include "Focus: the power of targeted thinking," a W. H. Smith best-seller, and "Your Writing Coach".