Think effectively? Hmm, how long has it been since you came up with a brilliant idea? When was the last time you did something you had never done before? When was the last time you made something from scratch? No matter what you do, it’s important you asked these questions to yourself. This is all the more important if you are in the job of making innovative products.
In this series of articles, we’ll explore how to think effectively. We’ll explore exercises and approaches to thinking and how to structure thoughts to come up with new ideas or just make better decisions. In this short article that’s first in the series, I want to quickly draw your attention to this question and talk about how you can think effectively in 4 easy steps. Roll-up your sleeves and get ready.
Before we talked about the 4 steps to effective thinking, I wanted to quickly talk about three terms that I’ve found being used a lot when it gets to coming up with ideas and thinking:
You might’ve heard people use them many a time too, when they say things like “this idea is not a revolutionary one”, “this is a disruptive product”, “there is nothing great about this product….just evolutionary”. What do these terms really mean? Here is my perspective…
We all have seen Rudolph Zallinger’s art March of Progress in various forms. That’s human evolution. But if you look a little closer, you see the sticks or weapons in the hands of the humans as we evolved from being primates. Human beings are born makers and that differentiates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Evolution takes place over a longer time period and it’s the fundamental nature of the universe. Evolution is change governed by the force of nature, in broad sense.
Disruption is the first thing that happens when we have the urge to take control of change. Disruption is a change in thinking pattern triggered either by accidental discovery or play or exploration that leads to better, faster or easier way of doing something. Disruption is most often not strategic or long term. It’s about the short term benefits.
This is exactly what happened when humans first discovered fire. It was by accident and play. Humans did not discover fire because they knew fire would help them cook. That brings us to the third part….revolution.
We have seen plenty of revolutions that the world has gone through. French revolution, English revolution, Siamese revolution are some revolutions you’ve probably heard of. The point here is not to focus on the revolutions themselves, but to look at the effect they have on people, thinking and ideologies.
Revolution is a fundamental change caused in a relatively (compared to evolution) short period of time. Revolution happens when there is a clear definition of a problem. Characterized by chaos, revolution taps into the creativity of the human mind.
For example, the development of the steam engine propelled the Industrial Revolution. But it was the accidental discovery of fire and steam (and many more disruptions) that led to the Industrial Revolution.
Depending on the demand or need, we end up wearing the thinking hat to come up with ideas that are either evolutionary, disruptive or revolutionary. No matter what hat you wear, it’s important to understand the fundamental steps to effective thinking.
Think Effectively in 4 Easy Steps
As product makers, we are always amidst a bunch of different people waiting for us to make a lot of decisions. Sometimes these decisions need us to be at our creative best. On the other hand, there are timelines, metrics and several other constraints that makes us sometimes feel mechanical. But is there a way to think effectively? Assuming you have to make a decision, here is a 4-step process that you can practice right now:
- Identify the objectives that drive the decision
- Understand the current situation and what’s known
- Brainstorm possible solutions
- Pick the solutions that are the most effective in achieving the objectives
If you are thinking of ideas to solve a certain problem, think of the key end-user who will be affected most. In most cases as product managers and makers, we are making decisions on behalf of our end-users. Going through the above 4 steps by keeping the end-user in mind will maximize the outcome and the effectiveness of your thinking.
In the next article, I’ll dive deeper into the first step in the above process. Stay updated by subscribing to my newsletter below.