DYT 011 : How to Think Effectively as Product Makers with Karthik - Design Your Thinking

DYT 011 : How to Think Effectively as Product Makers with Karthik

think effectivelyIn this Friday Fifteen episode, I will teach you how to think effectively and come up with creative ideas.

How often have you wondered “I wish I could think and come up with great ideas like Steve Jobs!”? How often have you thought “I am not a creative person”? Well, that kind of thinking will change after you finish listening to this episode! I know this is a lofty promise and I’ll try to live up to it in the next 15 minutes!

In this particular episode, you will learn

You will learn a 5-staged process and 5 thinking techniques to get you instantly started to change the way you fundamentally think.

Detailed Transcript

Hey welcome to the third episode of the Friday Fifteen on The Design Your Thinking Podcast, and this is me Karthik. Today we are going to learn something that will transform your thinking forever.  How often have you wondered “I wish I could think and come up with great ideas like Steve Jobs!”? How often have you thought “I am not a creative person”? Well, that kind of thinking will change after you finish listening to this episode! I know this is a lofty promise and I’ll try to live up to it in the next 15 minutes!

Well, I’m not selling snake oil or making empty promises, as what I’m about to teach you today has been tried and tested by experts. I learnt these techniques that I’m about to teach from experts in creative thinking and design, like John Thakara, Edward de Bono, Erik Stolterman and many others. These techniques have deep roots in Greek philosophy and has later been described by many authors in various different ways for business, creativity, design and many other disciplines.

My research in “thinking” and “creativity” has been on for over 12 years and it was triggered by this brute realization that hit me in my 20s when I realized that I was far more creative as a young kid as opposed to what I’d grown up to be. Have you observed something similar with yourself? Someone famous seemingly said this, and I quote “We are born creative, but education spoilt us.” Well there is some history to the way the modern education system does this.

If you are interested, you can check out the show notes for some very interesting reads. For now, let’s get back to the topic – “How to Think Effectively?” So, are you ready to change the way you think? Alright, let’s jump right in…

5 Steps to Thinking with the PUNCH

Thinking effectively can be broken down into 5 steps. While I am tempted to give you 5 different steps so you can try and remember them, I’ve found it extremely tough for people to internalize learnings. So I have an acronym for you. I am a martial artist and kicks and punches are the first thing that come to my mind. So the one word you need to remember is PUNCH, to help you think better!

To be able to deliver good PUNCH, you need to know your target, the surroundings and what you want to do with the PUNCH – knock-out someone or just distract and defend.

So what does PUNCH stand for?

“P” stands for Purpose. Thinking without purpose can be extremely useless and sometimes is called day-dreaming. So it all starts with a Purpose. As it is to be successful with anything, your thinking needs to have an aim, a purpose or an objective. Where are we going with this thought? Where and what do we want to end up with? What would define the ideal end state?

Best way is to start by writing down the purpose. Breakdown the purpose or rewrite it multiple times to be clear as to where you want to end. What are you thinking about? Just be mindful of the fact that this definition is very important. For example, if your purpose is to “reduce commute time”, you could do it in multiple ways – work from home, change your job, work out of a closer office space, etc.

Alright, let’s now look at the next step, which is “U” in “PUNCH”, which stands for “Understand the situation”. By now you understand the “purpose” of your thinking very clearly. You know what you want to end up with. It’s now important to understand “what you know and what you don’t know”. This is more about situational awareness. What you know about the situation and some of the perceptions about it.

In our example of “reducing commute time”, we probably know a lot of things including peak traffic hours, toll charges, office timings, appointments and nature of work, etc.

Once you are aware of the situation, you are better off coming up with some ideas or options as to what you can do about it. This is the time when you actually turn on the generator in your mind.

The “N” in PUNCH stands for “Number of options”. Come up with different options and solutions you think will help fulfill the purpose, given what you know about the situation.

Not necessarily each of the solutions you come up with is the right fit for fulfilling the purpose. They are just options. It’s now time you made the choice. “C” in PUNCH stands for “Choice”. This is the 4th stage in your thinking process where you decide on the solution you are going to pick and try to fulfill the purpose.

The 5th and last stage to your thinking process is “H”, which stands for “Hit and Act”. What is the point in thinking and not acting? There is no point knowing the target, fisting, retracting and not delivering the PUNCH!

The last stage is all about “action”. It’s about putting your thinking to action. Marc Abraham in episode010 talks about “What-if” thinking. This kind of thinking falls into the last stage. You know what your purpose is, what the situation is, what the options are, and what you have decided to do. It’s now about delivering the PUNCH. But you want to be aware of scenarios by doing some scenario-planning and asking “what-if” questions to help decide what you would do if something changed from what you know.

Bingo! We just skimmed through the 5 stages of thinking with a PUNCH! That said, like I just mentioned, we just skimmed through the surface. There are a number of processes and techniques that you can use in each of these 5 stages to help you think better. Without having to get into much of detail, I’ll walk you through 5 such techniques that you can use in each of these stages, as appropriate.

Are you ready to learn some simple-yet-powerful thinking techniques? Let’s jump right in!

5 Thinking Techniques with FOCUS

It’s now time we took a look at 5 thinking techniques that you can start to use to think along the 5 thinking stages. For that, I’d like you to remember the word FOCUS and think like a photographer.

So what does FOCUS stand for?

“F” in FOCUS stands for “Frame”. Do you remember the quote “Don’t lose the forest for the trees”? As a photographer, you can choose to take a picture of a forest or just a few trees in that forest. The two frames will tell you two different stories, as the details vary a lot. This is because we tend to think based on the details available in the frame. In other words, the details in the frame act as triggers to our thinking.

A good example for this way of thinking is when you want to think of traveling from one place to another. You can state your thinking goal as “I want to get from point A to point B”, but you can also state your goal as “get form point A to point B using a boat”. The second approach narrows the frame, that you don’t think about other options apart from the boat.

“O” in FOCUS stands for “Object position”. As photographers, we are constantly looking to capture an object of interest in a frame. In the pursuit of good pictures, we constantly keep imagining the object against a different setting or scene or frame. It’s this imagination that helps us take good pictures. Sometimes it’s as good as just changing perspective and looking at the same object from a different angle.

A good example for this kind of thinking is when you want to come up with disruptive ideas for a pen. You can imagine how the pen would write inside water or in space. This helps you think about a pen in a totally different way and think using first principles.

“C” in FOCUS stands for “Change of attention”. As photographers we are also looking to bring a difference to the pictures we capture by changing our attention on different aspects of the object to get the right balance of light, frame composition and so on.

A good way of thinking using this technique is when you have to think of something very differently. Say you are looking to solve a traffic problem at a certain place in a city. Looking at this place from different directions can give you different perspectives because of what you see in the frame.

“U” in FOCUS stands for “Uniqueness and Fit”. This one is less of a photography term, but one we’ve been used to as humans. My toddler son used to play with a set of different shaped blocks that he would drop into a box through differently shaped windows.

We always seek to find a “box” for what we see and fit what we see into it. We stereotype a gruesome looking person to a villain and a handsome looking person to a hero. This is applicable to so many other things we do. This thinking technique curbs creativity, but sometimes comes handy in some thinking situations.

“S” in FOCUS stands for “Sequence and Replace”. The sequence is something that could be a result of a free flow of thoughts or a conscious effort to move the thinking by either associating or replacing parts of the frame.

For example, if you had to think of a distributed public library, you could imagine walking into a library and picking a nice place to sit with a cup of coffee and staring at a menu card with books. Selecting them will either give you an option to read an eBook or perhaps a drone picks that book from a warehouse like storage and brings it to you. This kind of thinking is done by replacing humans with drones, juxtaposing restaurant tables with library tables, associating menu cards to long library aisles. This is a pretty disruptive technique and when used wisely, can help you come up with disruptive ideas.


Awesome! We just learnt 5 new thinking techniques! I can assure you will come up with better and richer ideas, think of everything differently after consciously applying the FOCUS techniques for a few days.

That’s it for today! Thinking effectively is one of the most underrated things for product makers. We all believe that the education and experience we’ve had would’ve automatically made us think effectively, but it’s not true. There are some people who have the tendency to think effectively because of their approach to life and work. Even then, knowing these techniques consciously can help create the awareness and hence avoid over confidence to drive us down the slippery slope.

I hope you found this class helpful and I look forward to seeing you next Friday! If you liked listening to this episode, do subscribe to The Design Your Thinking Podcast and leave us a Rating and Review in the iTunes store. I really really mean this. That’s the only way you can help me do more and better episodes. If you’ve left a rating and review after listening to this episode, do drop me a note with the episode011, and I’ll send you #MakeLearnChange tee.

You can find the transcript, links to a couple of very interesting articles on education and a link to Marc Abraham’s episode in the show notes at www.designyourthinking.com/episode011

Alright, till I see you in the next episode, Stay Tuned, Stay Inspired! Keep Pushing!

Show Notes

Marc Abraham on “Curiosity and the Art of Product Management” – https://designyourthinking.com/dyt-010-curiosity-art-product-management-marc-abraham/

Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk “Do schools kill creativity?” – https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity