Creative Thinking for Small Business – Part 3
This is Part 3, of our 5 part series, on creative thinking for small businesses.
In each part I’ll ask Michael Michalko, one of the most highly-acclaimed creativity experts in the world and author of the best-seller Thinkertoys, specific questions about creative thinking for small businesses.
Today Michael will discuss how writing down your problems will help you solve them.
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Why is it so important for business owners to write down their problems?
Michael’s Response: Psychologists have demonstrated that we are able to keep only about five to nine chunks of information in our mind at a time. After about twelve seconds, however, recall is poor, and after twenty seconds the information will disappear entirely, unless you keep repeating it to yourself or write it down. (In fact, by the time you finish reading this, you will have forgotten most of it.) Writing signals your brain that this piece of information is more crucial than others and should be stored in long-term memory. If you don’t list your ideas, you’ll spend all your mental energy trying to resurrect old thoughts instead of generating new ones.
Without looking at your watch, draw a picture of it as accurately as you can. Now compare your drawing with your watch. If you’re like most of us, your drawing is not an accurate representation. You probably discovered many missing details. Even though this is an instrument we look at several times a day, our mental image of it is weak.
Writing or listing your ideas as they occur also speeds up your thinking and focuses your attention on your subject.
- SPEED. Writing ideas speeds up thought. Many of us harbor the illusion that we are fast thinkers. Visualize the alphabet in capital letters. How many letters have curved lines? Observe how your brain thinks. First, you see the A, then B, and so forth and so on. It’s like watching a slide show. First one, then the next, one after the other, one at a time until you’re finished scanning the entire alphabet. This is as fast as your brain thinks. You think no faster than the speed of life. Visualize a tennis match. Now, speed it up 100 times. Difficult, isn’t it? We think sequentially, not spontaneously. Incidentally, there are 11 letters with curved lines in the alphabet.
- FOCUS. Writing ideas focuses your attention. Another common illusion is the belief that we can perform multiple tasks at the same time. For example, I can write a work report, listen to a football game, and pay attention to my child at the same time. If you believe that, try counting by sevens while at the same time count backwards by three. You’ll find that you can only do this by alternating. Your thinking is occupied by one topic until it switches to another. Try thinking of what you did yesterday and what you will do tomorrow. Notice how you do this sequentially, not simultaneously.
Listing ideas is one of the simplest methods of increasing your conceptual ability, because it does not require a change in behavior. It’s also surprisingly powerful, because it utilizes the compulsive side of most of us in a way that makes us into more fluent and flexible thinkers.
Michael Michalko is one of the most highly-acclaimed creativity experts in the world and author of the best-seller Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity), ThinkPak (A Brainstorming Card Deck), and Cracking Creativity (The Secrets of Creative Genius).
Michael has provided speeches, workshops, and seminars on fostering creative thinking for clients who range from Fortune 500 corporations, such as DuPont, Kellogg’s, General Electric, Kodak, Microsoft, Exxon, General Motors, Ford, USA, AT&T, Wal-Mart, Gillette, and Hallmark, to associations and governmental agencies. In addition to his work in the U.S., Michael speaks and provides workshops in countries around the world.
You can learn more about Michael on his website: www.CreativeThinking.net
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