Category Archives: Thinking

Think better

Have you ever been presented with a problem and delivered an expected solution? Most likely.

This is the usual response when addressing a challenge. We employ known ideas, known methods to deliver a known solution. Those who know me, will attest that I am a conservative thinker, but I’ve been challenged recently to think a little differently. This isn’t different for the sake of being different, this is in an attempt to deliver solutions that go beyond the easily digested and expected outcome.

I do not believe we should be diverging from an established path simply ‘just because’; but if there is an opportunity to be truly innovative that could potentially deliver a shorter or more efficient route for future challenges, then I suggest it must be considered.

Case in point is the marrying of social welfare and economics. Did you know it costs over $4 billion to simply administer the social welfare system in Australia to deliver $165 billion in payments (source: Australian Government Dept of Human Services 2014-15 Annual report)? That’s a weekly outlay of $3 billion with an administration cost of $80 million.

Traditional thinking has been to tweak eligibility requirements, strengthen the compliance framework, modify or revise payments… an alternative view is to replace the system entirely with what is known as a universal basic income. At its simplest, a basic income is a common universal payment to each and every member of society, irrespective of income or employment status or health profile. This payment would be designed to meet the basic living costs and, perhaps surprisingly, is not a new concept. It can trace its origin back to the 1800’s with it afforded greater prominence in the 1960s (thanks to noted economist Milton Friedman) and has been the topic of debate periodically since. Finland is trialling this concept.

Now I’m not intending to deliver economic or social rationale for either of these approaches in this post, that’s for you to discover! I am hoping, though, to encourage all of us to innovate our thinking by exploring an alternative view to a current challenge, seeking to understand its merits or otherwise.

If we want better solutions, we need different thinking, better thinking.


When is failing, failure?

This is a question I’ve had the opportunity to consider in my work role that I commenced earlier this year. A core component is determining the presence of the scientific method in assessing complex research and development projects.

In science, I’ve learned failing is a lesson, a pathway to a revised experiment. In life, failing is more often seen as being unsuccessful. The reality is, though, that failing only becomes failure when we cease trying.

Muhammad Ali was a great boxer, deemed by many to be ‘The Greatest’ of the 20th century, perhaps all-time. As a boxer, he was knocked-down by opponents. How many world titles did he win from the canvas? He won world titles not by staying down, but by rising up and continuing to fight. Boxing analogies are well-used I know, but that’s because they reflect what many of us do not do. When we’re struck down, floored by an unseen challenge, we spend too much time working out how and why when we should be readying ourselves for the next round.

Are we using failing as an opportunity to learn and go again, or we allowing it to nudge us closer to failure?

This is where we need to adopt the view of science, not the world. We need to measure our efforts, our plans, by the systematic progression of work we’re employing, not by the immediate outcome.

Adopting the scientific method into our own world means that we begin with the idea, the dream, the goal. Around this we develop a framework of what we think is required – the skills, the knowledge, the relationships, the courage. This provides the platform for our ‘experiment’ where we infuse the idea with effort, where we give it a go.

At this point, the immediate outcome may not be the final result. If our effort delivers the outcome we desired, fantastic – move onto the next idea! If the outcome is not what we desired, fantastic – move back to the framework we created and alter, refine and expand. If the result remains the same after several iterations of the framework, we may even need to go back to the original idea to determine if this is valid for us at this point in time.

The famous quote attributed to the inventor of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison, epitomises the scientific method ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’

Failing only becomes failure when we cease trying.


Learner or Judger?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel “stuck”.

Maybe you, too, sometimes feel this way and want to move from being “stuck” to finding possibilities and solutions?

Marilee Adams, an adjunct professor and leadership author, explored the premise of changing the mindset of a team – or ourselves! – by considering the questions we ask. Are we asking questions that lead to breakthrough and encourage change or we are asking questions that lead to stagnation and demoralization?

According to Professor Adams, we need to consider whether we’re asking ‘learner questions’ or ‘judger questions’. It’s natural for us to ask both types of questions when addressing a challenge or responding to a situation, but without learner questions, outcomes suffer.

Judgers ask… Who is to blame?

Learners ask… What am I responsible for?

Judgers ask… How can I prove I’m right?

Learners ask… What are the facts and what am I assuming?

Judgers ask… Why bother?

Learners ask… What’s possible?

What are we asking?

Am I asking myself learner or judger questions?

We need to consider what impact the questions we’re asking are having on our attitude, our engagement, our productivity. To move from being stuck to finding possibilities, we must be intentional towards the outcomes we desire by creating learner questions focused on our goals in specific areas.

Flick the switch – become a learner!

Let Hope Rise.

Is the impossible possible?

As a toddler I recall seeing my tradesmen Dad climbing ladders, carting tools across rooftops and even driving a car! At that point in my life those things seemed impossible, only possible by my Superdad! With age and experience came an understanding that all of those things were entirely possible for me. Yet, even with this insight I still find myself applying my toddler impossibility mindset to situations.

Steve Jobs, the recently deceased Apple visionary, was referred by many in his team as having a “reality distortion field”. A former Macintosh developer stated this in clearer terms “Steve was able to convince people that the impossible was possible”. Whilst not all of us have the vision and drive of Steve Jobs, we can remove the blinkers from our eyes to see beyond the everyday ‘possible’.

Many of the amazing feats of engineering, medical and scientific breakthroughs, and even exploration were once deemed impossible. Placing a man on the moon was the realm of science fiction. To suggest one could circumnavigate the earth was almost worthy of witchcraft!

Something incredibly worthy that appears unlikely now should be all the more reason for us to explore how to make the impossible possible.


Photo: Royalty free image purchased via 123RF Stock Photos