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How To Think Differently for Success

Think differently for success

To change from where you are and be more successful, you need to learn to think differently. It will certainly give you a new perspective on your problems.  Whether you’re trying to change the world, or you want to be the best you can be, you have to change how you think.

1. Prioritize.  Before spending large amounts of time (which is your most limited and precious resource) on a problem, ask whether the problem is even worth your time.  Is it worth it?  Is it significant?  How much time should you spend on it?  What is the pay off?

2. Ask smarter questions.  If you want better answers, ask smarter questions. Rather than getting stuck in one line of questioning, such as “what’s wrong with this?” or “what’s right with this?” At Microsoft, engineers learn Precision Questions / Precision Answers.

There are 7 categories of precise questions:
• Go / NoGo –   Do we need to talk about this?
• Clarification – What do you mean?
• Assumptions – What are we assuming?
• Basic Critical Question – How do we know this is true?
• Causes – What’s causing this?
• Effects – What will be the effects?
• Action – What should be done?

3. Make fact-driven decisions.  Most people make emotional decisions and then find facts to support the decision.  You need to ask questions like, “what’s the facts say?”  You need to get informed before you make your decision and evaluate the origin of the data.  It’s quite an exercise in emotional intelligence to stop your emotional response while you check your critical and logical thinking.

4. Ignore your ego and separate yourself from the problem.  You need to separate yourself from the solution.  See it from arm’s length and inspect it from different angles.  It’s not whether you are right, it’s about whether the solution is right.  And if you are wrong, don’t take it personally.

5. Frame the problem.   This is simply how you look at a problem, like how you frame a picture.  Choose what to focus on, what’s in and what’s out. Framing helps you get a better perspective on the problem, as well as sharing it more effectively with others.  Some questions to help frame a problem include: Who’s the customer? What are their needs and priorities? What are your competitors doing? How do you respond?  How can we  be different? Are there priorities for our business?

6. Get new perspectives on the problem.  Instead of seeing the glass half-full or the glass half-empty, you must see both angles – switch back and forth from finding flaws to finding opportunities. You should be able to look at the problem from different angles.  This also means asking advice from experts and to get other people’s views.  Problem solving is a team sport.

7. Model the problem.  By abstracting the problem into a model, you can think about it in simpler ways, without being bogged down by the implementation details.  Use a whiteboard to sketch out ideas and visualize them.   A whiteboard can help whether you’re trying to map out the problem or draw a solution.

8. Play out the problem or your solution to the problem over time.  Time can dramatically change what it looks like.  Consider the impact of trends, consider sustainability.  Some things look good only temporary, and really break down when you apply time to them.

9. Think strategically.  You can think strategically along different lines.  Consider the core of what you do (mission, vision, values, and goals.) Consider internal analysis (strengths and weaknesses, resources and capabilities)  and  external analysis (competitive analysis, opportunities and threats, and industry conditions.)

Consider the organisation design (structure, controls and incentives, culture and people.)   Consider execution (roles, responsibilities, resources, action plans, measurement, and accountability.)  Consider functional strategies (marketing and sales, operations, human resources, and R&D.)  Consider strategic choices (corporate strategy and business strategy.)

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