by Henry Elisher,
Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant
So, how do we go about thinking differently?
The reality of the matter is that to think differently we need to first if all be good at thinking. Sound fairly obvious when you say it like that, right?
To do this we need to be conscious of where our intellectual and emotional capabilities are initially invested and then knowing the time when to switch from where we’ve previously been entrenched. To think differently we need to think well and thus being smart or clever now becomes our ‘go to’ platform rather drawing from a pure informational base. This however involves changing how we fundamentally function, in terms of our perceptions & perspective.
The concept of the elasticity of the mind needs to start with our own conceptualised understanding of how our own perspectives are created. Without consciously thinking about it most of us will commence looking at a problem from the same vantage point on each occasion. Either out of habit, familiarity or tradition are standard starting point immediately forms assessment biases by our want to access our tried and true formulas for what previously worked. This would be akin to using the same route to climb a mountain over and over. What type of scenery and experiences do you miss by walking the same path time and again?
To expose your own singular ways of thinking and grow multiple perspectives you obviously need to be self-aware, but then also, you need to have the presence of mind to put yourself in situations where you can grow these perspectives. You need to allow yourself to commence thinking on a problem that’s not inhibited by built in biases, to allow yourself to question your process. Why it is other people may think differently to me. All yourself to step into the mindset of others and then ask ‘what is different to how I arrive at explanations from the way my friends or colleagues do, how are they seeing what I see? How and why are they arriving at their conclusions?’’.
This style is commonly known as integrative thinking and commences from a place of consideration rather than a static position. It provides an openness to learning from other people’s ideas, especially those that may conflict with our own, but also, draws on our own numerous experiences that might formulate an alternate perspective to the puzzles placed in front of us.
Many times it’s the tension within conflict of ideas or methods that will allow us to entirely reframe the problem. It’s within this amorphous sense-making phase that we can reside within the converging and diverging perspectives, allowing us to consider all as valid without having to adopt a definite position. It’s the unbridling of inherent ‘starter’ biases that will provide us with the scope to think differently about problem.
The more we allow ourselves to function in this manner, the better we become at changing our thought processes, being more adaptive and formulating problems differently and uniquely.
Solving problems and drawing conclusions in existing frameworks are often a blend of analytical and elastic thinking, but, the manner in which we formulate new frameworks rely heavily on the elasticity and malleability of our thoughts, this becomes the real basis for thinking differently.
How does this apply to me?
In the 1999 movie, Any Given Sunday, Al Pacino’s character, Tony D’Amato, gives his players a motivational speech that includes the following lines;
‘One half step too late or too early, you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in every break of the game, every minute, every second’.
To me the concept within those lines translates to the way I’d like to be able to process information within my environment. The way I utilise that line is to think that the perspectives, ideas and innovations to do things differently exist all around me, they’re in the experiences I’ve had, the conversations I will have, the future insights I’ll gain from colleagues and the application of all those pieces in framing questions to issues.
I look at my own background in economics, law and real estate. Starting from a fundamental economist perspective that the economic actions of individuals are understood to be that people ‘behave rationally in their economic decision making’. I then access my knowledge of real estate, I know that quite often emotional value and attachment overrides intrinsic value and this can blind individuals when their emotional attachments are too high. In much the same way within the business analyst world these concepts also exist, it’s just that we have buyers and sellers of a solution operating in environments where there may be emotional value attached to the current modus operandi, or where significant cost may have already been sunk into the deployment of a barely adequate solution. It’s the value in accessing our other experiences and utilising them to form unique perspectives that will provide us with the opportunity to think outside of our common frameworks and reformulate questions to the puzzle, to think differently.
When I look back to what BAPL is striving to achieve, to challenge traditional thinking…and deliver exceptional business analysis, I understand now that the shift doesn’t need to be radical. Sometimes the most elegant, most simple answer only takes a slight shift in perspective to get to the right result that may been standing in front of you all along.