3 Thinking Skills to Improve Your Intellectual Horsepower
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” —
Here are 3 simple thinking skills I tend to use each day.
There are some more advanced thinking skills, but here I’m boiling down to a set of 3 skills you can use today.
In fact, you can even use them while you read this post.
I’ll go through the thinking skills in order from simpler to more complex, so you can use them right away.
Ask and Answer Better Questions
Let’s start by getting a quick definition of what thinking is.
What is thinking?
You just did it.
For the sake of this exercise, let’s think of "thinking" as simply asking and answering questions.
If you want better answers, ask better questions. And that’s the key to skilled thinking and developing your thinking skills.
Every day, you have a new chance to practice your thinking skills by asking better questions.
Use the following thinking skills to improve your thinking, by asking and answering better questions.
3 Thinking Skills
Here are 3 thinking skills that I use fairly regularly:
- How Might That Be True?
- Plus Points, Minus Points, and Interesting Points (PMI), by Edward de Bono
- Six Thinking Hats, by Edward de Bono
Technique #1: How Might That Be True?
This habit helps you develop intellectual curiosity, connect better with people, and build rapport versus create instant conflict.
When you hear something new, or information that conflicts with what you think you already know, ask yourself the following question:
“How might that be true?"
This simple question will open your curiosity.
It also helps you build rapport with people you interact with. This second point is especially important if you want to learn from those around you. If you’re quick to prove people wrong, people won’t share information with you. Rather than fight somebody on a point right from the start, you can help them explore the point.
You don’t have to agree. Instead, simply explore the possibility.
Sometimes people have good information or knowledge, but it’s generalized so it appears to be wrong, but within it lie kernels of truth or insight.
Don’t throw that away.
Thinking Skill #2: Plus Points, Minus Points, and Interesting Points (PMI)
I think of PMI as Edward de Bono’s simplified version of Six Thinking Hats. PMI is simply Plus Points, Minus Points, and Interesting Points.
Basically, all you do is ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the plus points?
- What are the minus points?
- What are the interesting points?
This helps you expand your thinking.
Notice how the plus points are first. This helps find the good first, before shutting it down with minus points. By looking for interesting points, you find yet another class of insights. This is where you might find some unexpected "ah-has."
Thinking Skill # 3: Six Thinking Hats
Six Thinking Hats is Edward de Bono’s hard-core thinking technique, and it’s highly effective.
You can use it for yourself or even in a room full of people.
The beauty of the Six Thinking Hats is that you explore multiple perspectives for more complete thinking. The Six Hats are:
- White Hat – the facts and figures
- Red Hat – the emotional view
- Black Hat – the “devil’s advocate”
- Yellow Hat – the positive side
- Green Hat – the creative side
- Blue Hat – the organizing view
The most effective way I’ve found to turn these into action is to turn the hats into simple questions:
- What are the facts and figures? (White Hat)
- What’s your gut reaction? How do you feel about this? (Red Hat)
- Why can’t we do this? What prevents us? What’s the downside? (Black Hat)
- How can we do this? (Yellow Hat)
- What are additional opportunities? (Green Hat)
- How should we think about this? (what are the metaphors or mental models) (Blue Hat)
If you’re in a room full of people, rather than fight on topics, you can team up.
Go to the whiteboard, write the list of questions above, and cycle through them as a group.
Instead of tug-of-war, you’re now teaming up on “what are the facts and figures?” …
… “why can’t we do this?” … “how can we do this?” … etc.
This technique helps “black hat critics” step out of character and your reduce the overall energy drain of fighting point by point.
Instead, you improve your overall thinking as a group.
What are your favorite thinking techniques?
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Photo by Capture Queen.