Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Archive for the tag “Problem solving”

Leadership Traps: Thinking too Fast and Continuing Biases

I’ve been thinking about leadership traps I’ve read about recently (predominantly in Guy Claxton’s Hare Brain Tortoise Mind, but brought into relief by various mainstream Management Today, Fortune and FT articles)

By leadership traps I’m thinking of things (like ‘not reading management texts because of apparently being already ‘at the top of the tree”) that appear to be structural faults in a number of management and leadership teams and the nature of the relationships therein:

  1. The ‘sycophancy’ of leaders not being challenged, with the result that their beliefs and business/ life ‘filters’ drive the same types of decision-making that they always make
  2. Too busy and too fast: the super-human CEO. Carlos Ghosn (as much as I admire him) style of hyper-tasking – he is CEO of both Renault and Nissan. I wrote previously about whether the leadership position would have to morph over time into the thoughtful/ contemplative strategic CEO and the ‘hyper-executive’ Chief Operating Officer (COO). If the leader does not make time to sit back and think: to contemplate and percolate, who else will? And yet, the demands for efficiency and performance currently reach their nadir in the leader. Sitting and thinking or reading appears to be frowned upon…
  3. Challenging leadership teams: a flip on the first point above. George Prince is cited by Claxton in research on speculation (the exploring of tentative ideas in public) as being capped by management teams that are in any way competitive or judgemental ‘the victim of the win-lose or competitive posture is always speculation, and therefore idea production and problem solving’:  so if the leader does not work on an environment of constructive/ non-competitive challenge, then lack of idea production and problem solving will perpetuate too narrow a leader-led focus and unchallenged decision-making
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Why Talking to Yourself Might be The Highest Form of Intelligence

Network Neurons 1 - Gerard79

Network Neurons 1 - Gerard79

Have you ever found yourself asking someone a question you’ve been puzzling over for a long time, only to come up with the answer half way through asking the question?

At Madgex, the developers refer back to an old beer advert for John Smiths when trying to solve problems. They find that when they need help, just calling someone over and explaining the problem to them often gives them the answer half way through. The cardboard cut-out of the man in the advert to stand behind them is thought to be all that is required when a coding or logic issue arises rather than a real person.

So, what’s happening and how can this observation shed light on why vision and goal setting works?

At its core, when you ask someone something you consciously articulate it. You explain it and frame the issue for the person. Most importantly however, you explain it and (re)frame it for yourself. You give direction to your other-than-conscious very clearly. Now you may question why actually articulating something gives any different result to just sitting there unspeakingly struggling with the question.

Two things. First, in giving words to (or writing onto paper) an issue and adding the clarity and clarifications required to make something understandable to someone else has the same impact on your other-than-conscious. You may think that you’re being clear about an issue in your head, but you rarely are. You’re more likely to be half articulating the issue and then immediately looping into the  same consciously derived result you keep on getting which is failing to remove the problem or blocker.

And this is the second point. By talking to yourself (again, words or paper is good – words may be better because of how unusual you may experience the sensation), your conscious brain gives a clear set of instructions to your other-than-conscious brain. You ask yourself the question and often answer it very quickly yourself because the totality of your resources (conscious and unconscious) are now engaged to a common endeavour (and in most cases, you knew the answer to the problem: it just needed unlocking by you being clear with yourself)

Brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor takes the essence of this a big step further in her book, My Stroke of Insight, when she says ‘From my perspective, the focused human mind is the most powerful instrument in the universe, and through the use of language, our left brain is capable of directing (or impeding) our physical healing and recovery

On a connected use of articulation (left brain/ right brain), related to my previous post on  rules for personal productivity, some great advice from Harvard Business on How to Write To-Do Lists that Work – the second section is all about providing sufficient detail in a ‘to-do’ on a to do list as you would if you were instructing a personal assistant.

Other linked posts:

Questioning Yourself as a Higher Form of Talking to Yourself? – does the apparent weakness of self-questioning hide a better problem solving technique?

Talking to Myself Again – communicating to yourself as stress relief

Creativity and the Business Brain (and why most of us should be sacked) – talking to yourself is good for framing the blockers, with diffuse day-dreaming as the really creative stuff?

The Power of Game Playing Over the Unconscious

Floral Abstraction by Japonka

Floral Abstraction by Japonka

It’s been a while since I’ve explored one of my favourite topics: game playing. But I must update in this post on some of the ongoing reading from Claxton’s Hare Brain 

I am pleased that my conclusions in August (bold in particular):

‘I think that the common component across play delivering personal change and enabling creativity and problem solving is at the level of this ‘what-if’ modelling. It enables us to try things out in the safe environment of our minds. Actual mental game play and just a natural relaxed ‘playful’ state of mind are not too far away from each other on a spectrum when considered from this perspective. Equally, I think that adopting a playful state to personal change scenarios enables the activity being undertaken to deliver the change on a repeated basis to go lower under the conscious ‘radar’. We build less mental conscious resistance to change when the activity supporting the change is tagged ‘game’.’

are mirrored (far more eloquently) on P118 of Claxton’s book:

‘When self esteem is at stake, delicate unconscious forms of information and intelligence seem to be disabled or dismissed, and the way we act becomes clumsy and coarse. When we are less ‘on our best behaviour’, the glimmerings of knowledge from the undermind are more available to guide perception and action…… The same kind of relief from pressure can be achieved by presenting the ‘test’ as if it were a guessing game, rather than a measure of achievement. When we treat something as a ‘pure guess’, we do not feel responsible for it in the same way. We are freed to utter things that come to us ‘out of the blue’, because there is no apparent standard of correctness or success against which they, or we, will be judged’

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