“Is the glass half empty, half full, or twice as large as it needs to be?” — Anonymous
Don’t fall into the intelligence tap. The intelligence trap is when you get trapped in one point of view.
You make your mind up based on your first opinion.
Once you form your initial opinion, you use your thinking to support your position, rather than to explore the subject to broaden your thinking.
The solution is to use the PMI technique to improve your thinking. The PMI technique is a thinking technique to find the Plus Points, Minus Points, and Interesting Points about the issue before you form an opinion.
In Tactics: The Art and Science of Success, Edward de Bono writes about using the PMI technique to improve your thinking.
Avoid the Intelligence Trap
According to de Bono, we can avoid the Intelligence Trap by exploring the positive, negative and interesting angles of any idea.
de Bono writes:
“Many highly intelligent people are caught in the intelligence trap: they take a position on a subject and then they use their thinking skill solely to support that position.
The more able they are to support the position, the less do they see any need actually to explore the subject: so they become trapped into one point of view.
The PMI formula forces a scan.
Once a perception has been broadened in this way, the thinker cannot unthink what is now in front of them.”
Overview of the PMI Technique
Use the PMI Technique to find the Plus Points, Minus points, and Interesting points.
Structure your thinking so that before you form an opinion, you explore the up sides, the down sides, and the interesting points of the issue.
When you form you opinion, it will include more points of view to help you make a more balanced decision.
Step 1. Consider the Plus Points of the Situation.
In this step, simply enumerate all of the positive things you can think of.
Don’t critique yourself along the way, simply dump out all the positive points that you can think of.
Step 2. Consider the Minus Points of the Situation.
In this step, enumerate all of the negative things you can think of.
Again, don’t critique yourself.
Simply dump out all the negative points you can think of.
Step 3. Consider the Interesting Points of the Situation.
In this step, enumerate all the interesting points that you can think of.
Rather than positive or negative, they are simply points of interest that you should direct your attention to.
Step 4. Make Your Decision
In this step, you make your decision. You can now choose more effectively because you’ve scanned and organized three important pieces of information: the positives, the negatives, and the interesting.
The key to remember in all this is it’s not about simply counting up the positive or negatives.
Some items may be trivial while others may be incredibly significant.
Instead, the process of structuring your thinking helps you see the full forest and to see the forest for the trees.
How I use the PMI Technique at Work
It’s fast and simple. All I do is remind myself to use the PMI technique if I find myself judging a point of view.
I remind myself to just consider the Plus points, consider the Minus points, and find the Interesting points.
It takes just a handful of seconds, or a matter of moments, and it completely reopens my perspective again.
But most importantly, it helps respect other opinions, in a more inclusive way.
And, it helps me find more ah-has and learning opportunities, from otherwise routine interactions.
And maybe the most important thing the PMI does, is it actively helps me avoid the Intelligence Trap.
It reminds me to explore an idea more fully, in a fast, simple, and fun way.
It’s this rapid pivot of perspectives that I believe helps ensure an Agile mind, and reinforce a Growth Mindset.
Be Careful of Playing the Devil’s Advocate
I run into the Intelligence Trap a lot at work. It usually happens when somebody wants to play the Devil’s advocate.
They start with what’s wrong with things and then they get locked in.
Worse, playing the Devil’s Advocate can start the discussion off from an adversarial position – and then people go into fight, flight or freeze mode.
The most effective thinkers I know, first find what’s right. They explore the other person’s perspective, until the other person feels heard.
This helps build rapport and gets more information out.
Next, they explore what’s potentially wrong, or alternative views.
Sometimes people just need a reminder that it’s OK to hold multiple views about something without any view being right or wrong.
It’s a simple pattern, and it’s way more effective than getting locked into one side or another.
So the next time you find yourself suffering from the same old stinking thinking, try the PMI technique on for size.