7 Words to Guide Your Thinking ..
By Steve Bareham | July 31, 2000
This may strike you as an odd question, but think about it before you judge.
Certainly, people have told you to, "think about it," to "think before you act," and that you had "better think again," but other than spouting rhetoric, who actually spent time teaching you how to think? Through our formal school years, and in most workplace settings, thinking is equated with the acquiring and absorbing of information, but heaping piles of information on people without specific thinking preparation raises the aphorism about throwing water on a drowning person.
Thinking is a skill like any other; without tools and practice you cannot be as proficient a thinker as you might like to be, and the results you achieve will be commensurate with the tools and techniques you use. Consider two carpenters, one equipped with only a hammer and saw, the second with a complete workshop. Which one will turn out the finest furniture? Similarly, your ability to employ good thinking tools has direct implications on your ability to perform well in your workplace.
So, how can we improve our thinking? Answer: adopt a system that uses simple memory prompts, in this case seven words. The words themselves cannot make you think better, but when used as reminders, they help to ensure that thought processes are more complete.
7C thinking helps ensure that thinking is:
- Candid (examine personal psychological landmines)
- Critical (play devil's advocate), and
The 7Cs are proven to be an effective and efficient way to audit thinking; they also serve as a wonderful focusing technique if introduced and explained before the beginning of business meetings where collective thinking efforts are required.
In the space allotted, we will cover only the first two Cs.
How often are we totally constructive in our personal thinking, at our places of work, or in our interpersonal relationships? Few of us can answer "always," and yet, can there be any good reason for not being constructive 100 percent of the time?
Constructive thinkers develop the habit of approaching challenges or questions from solution-oriented perspectives. Constructive thinking requires more of a shift in personal attitude and philosophy than it does adoption of techniques or strategies, and although logic would suggest that everyone should be constructive, how often is this so? Incredibly, many societies and cultures cultivate destructive and confrontational modes of thinking and acting to the point where we tend to view them as being normal and acceptable. Of course, people don't think they are being deliberately destructive or confrontational, but consider how our governments, courts, workplaces and even home environments often operate.
The confrontational approach is a tenuous strategy because it tends to make proponents of a particular point of view isolationist and thus denies the opportunity and inclination to seek out alternatives and/or opposing points of view.
You have probably known people who seem to naturally move in constructive directions when confronted by a question, problem, or issue. They seem to instinctively seek positive outcomes and eagerly involve others in helping to reach solutions. You have probably also known people who seem more inclined to view challenges as annoyances. These people often begin their thinking process with a litany of negatives: "I can't solve this..." or "I've got enough to do already..." or "I know what I'd like to do but these other people just don't seem to get the point..."
Becoming a consistent constructive thinker comes first from forming the appropriate mental mindset and then by disciplining yourself to practice being constructive. And don't overlook the fact that being constructive almost automatically helps us to be more likableâ€”an important consideration in our careers.
What is comprehensive thinking?
Comprehensive: covering completely or broadly; inclusive; having or exhibiting wide mental grasp; knowledge, complete, exhaustive, extensive, thorough. - Webster'sComprehensive thinking requires that we obtain information (usually from sources other than our own brains, including formal research and other people), and that we prioritize, sort, and arrange this "new" knowledge in appropriate ways. Then we need to anticipate likely outcomes, to ensure that we've asked enough of the right questions, and objectively analyzed our answers without undue influence of psychological landmines such as denial, rationalization, procrastination, etc. Typically, a comprehensive thinking process will involve all of the following:
- What is the real issue to be resolved?
- What is the best possible outcome?
- Personal brainstorming about issue/problem
- What existing knowledge do you have?
- What additional information, knowledge, or skills do you need to acquire?
- Group brainstorm about issue/problem (friends, family, colleagues)
- Conduct research (information gathering)
- Sort information
- Organize information
- Interpret and analyze selected information
- Generate options for answers/solutions
- Apply creativity and examine connectiveness issues (how will this impact on other people or situations?)
- Discuss proposed answers/solutions with others to obtain more perspectives and to reveal personal blind spots
- Prepare a plan
- Project and consider possible consequences of the plan and refine if necessary
- Evaluate the effectiveness of actions
- Fine tune as needed.
Thinking in a 7C manner is neither quick nor easy, but when it is important that outcomes be optimal, can we and should we settle for anything less?