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When Do You Make Time to Think?

By Ed Bernacki |

Thinking is crucial in business to solve problems, develop new strategies, deal with customers and manage staff issues. Thinking is important. It fuels creativity. It improves decision making. It creates value. So when do you think?

According to a recent US study, more than half of the senior executives questioned said that they are most effective in personal thinking in these places:

  • 58% say at home,
  • 50% say commuting to work,
  • 45% say at the office and
  • 38% say during brainstorming sessions.

Would the results differ for Canadian executives? I doubt it. It's staggering to consider that so many executives believe their businesses are unsuitable places for thinking. If this reflects your reality, consider how you can harness your thinking when you actually do it. You won't be sitting in front of a computer. Therefore, what tool can capture your thinking to create value for your organization?

Forget the electronic toys and invest in a quality note book. Turn it into your idea journal with these two sections.

Use the first two or three pages to answer this question: where do I need innovative thinking? Write down a version of this question in big letters on the first page to prompt you to pick the problems in need of solutions, the products waited to be created, the staff issues needing to be resolved, and so on. Think of this as your contents pages.. Number each challenge.

The second stage is to take each challenge and write it across the top of a new page. If you start with four challenges, then use four separate pages.

Whether you are sitting at home or driving, pick one of your challenges and think about it. Don't be worried if the big idea does not come right away. Start by asking...

  • Why does this problem exist?
  • What assumptions have we made about this situation? Are they still valid?
  • Have we tried to solve this in the past? Why did the solution fail?
  • Do we need an a better solution or a totally different solution?

The goal is to capture your observations, insights and conclusions. Sometimes nothing comes to mind. Don't fret as it takes time to develop ideas. The key is keep advancing toward a solution.

This final aspect is the hardest. It takes discipline to invest small amounts of time each day. Our productive time is too valuable to waste. I look for opportunities to steal time for my ideas when I am forced to waste it. Waiting for doctor's appointment or at the airport are perfect opportunities to invest 10 minutes of thinking into your challenges. I confess that I have used my idea journal during dull meetings. I focus one eye on my challenge while keeping the other on the meeting. People may think I am making meeting notes when I am actually developing my ideas.

The research does raise some interesting questions: why do we manage our business without building in time to think? Perhaps you can think about when you drive home tonight.

Canadian, Eh!

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