For the past few months I’ve been focusing on creating products for our customers to help them understand and adapt to change. The challenge is that change isn’t going to stop for any of us, so the best we can do is learn how to adapt as quickly as possible. Inspirational blogger and author Seth Godin might say it’s more about responding and less about reacting. When we respond we are present and can take action, but when we react we resist, complain, and get stuck. And that’s exactly what happened to me and my cat this week.
Good design is about good communication. It’s a type of conversation between the designer and the user that just happens to not use any words. When you think of it that way, it’s no surprise that Whole Brain® Thinking can have just as much impact on design as it can on any verbal or written conversation.
One of the most important parts of the Scrum process is the Sprint Review. It’s the chance to show your work to a broad audience, get feedback, and get aligned on where to focus next. Whole Brain® Thinking can be applied here to ensure the outputs land with as many different Thinkers as possible.
Here at Herrmann, our team members are big believers in Agile software development philosophy, particularly the Scrum variety. We've been using Scrum since I started here almost five years ago, and in that time we've been able to expand on the baseline Scrum processes and add a Whole Brain® Thinking spin to them. The place where Whole Brain® Thinking has made the biggest impact has been how we write our user stories.
Even in normal times, managers in the core of any company face significant challenges; they have to communicate up, down, and laterally in order for everyone to be productive. But, in a merger all of those relationships change all at the same time.
The other day, a friend shared with me this nightly after-dinner routine at her house: She and her husband clear the table. She loads the dishwasher. She leaves the kitchen. He stays behind and rearranges all the dishes in the dishwasher.
“He always complains about how I load it,” she told me. “He says I don’t use the space efficiently enough. So we just have to run it more often! I’d rather do that than spend all day trying to organize every dish in there just so.”
I’m not going to weigh in on who’s loading the dishwasher correctly, but I do get where he’s coming from. There’s nothing more annoying than watching someone tackle a task when you know there’s a better way. No matter what you say or do, they won’t listen to reason, even though your way is the more precise way. Or the more efficient way...or thoughtful...or creative...
You know, the right way.
Sometimes, it feels like we spend a lot of energy trying to make sense of each other and the world around us. Whether we’re navigating the dishwasher protocols of our significant others, delegating a task to a direct report at work, or trying to find our way to the solution to a nagging business challenge, one thing is clear: Other people don’t always do things the way we would do them. And that can be pretty irritating.
The question is, why do people approach tasks, problems, decisions, ideas, and, yes, even the dishwasher, in completely different ways? Why do we all take different routes to the same destination?
How many times have you written up what seems like a perfectly clear email message only to find that the person on the receiving end just doesn’t “get it”? Not only is it annoying, it can end up wasting a lot of time for both parties.
Beyond the obvious need for a sarcasm font, here’s what could be going on: You likely communicate in a style that’s rooted in the way you prefer to think. The problem is, that can be at odds with the preferences of the person you’re communicating with. You may prefer formal, sequential, highly organized thinking, and so your email messages will follow suit. Your recipient, on the other hand, may prefer a more casual, free-flowing style. They’re looking for the big picture, and when they see all that detail, they tune out.
Or maybe you gravitate toward a more expressive style. You would never just jump right into the cold, dry facts without a few pleasantries up front. Meanwhile, your recipient might be rolling their eyes, wondering why you can’t just get to the point.
Considering how much we rely on email today, it makes sense to find some common ground and learn how to adapt your thinking and your messages—both so you can be heard and so you can avoid confusion or miscommunication.
Your team has been tasked to solve a tough problem or to come up with a breakthrough idea or new opportunity. How will you attack the challenge? What’s your go-to creative tool?
In many team collaboration scenarios, the instinct is to get everyone together for a big, freewheeling brainstorming session and see what comes out of it. That is one way to go. But it’s not necessarily the best way. And on its own, it’s not likely to get you to the boundary-pushing ideas and solutions you need.
Why Doesn’t Brainstorming Work?
When leaders look at team collaboration as a way to spark creativity, brainstorming is often one of the first things they’ll think of. The members of the project team will gather around a conference table, set a timer and spout their first thoughts about a topic while some poor soul diligently takes notes. The whole point of the exercise, they’re led to believe, is quantity of ideas, not quality.
Eventually the timer goes off. People stand up, pat themselves on the back, congratulate each other on their creative thinking, and then file out of the room.
And then what happens?
They’re some of your most dedicated, hardest working employees. No one gets down to business and gets every box checked, every time, on time, quite like they do. Frankly, it’s a relief, knowing that you can count on them to keep plowing ahead no matter what you throw their way.
But did you ever stop to think that maybe they don’t have time to stop to think?
Deep thinking is in short supply in today’s work environment, where the distractions are many, the work is intense and task-oriented productivity rules the day. As a result, though, we’re sacrificing impact for activity. If people don’t have time to think more critically and intentionally, to make conscious choices instead of habitually reacting and responding, the business is going to suffer—maybe not today, but soon enough.
If you’re a leader, you set the direction and vision for your organization or department, but there’s still a lot that’s not completely under your control: the behavior of other people, the state of the economy, the unfolding of world events, the overall pace of change. Sure, you can anticipate and react to these things, but you can’t totally control them.
What’s surprising, though, is how few leaders take the time to notice the one thing they can always control, even when the world is out of control: their thinking.