"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.
“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.
Summary of Steps
Here is a summary of the steps to use the PMI Technique:
- Step 1. Consider the Plus Points of the Situation.
- Step 2. Consider the Minus Points of the Situation.
- Step 3. Consider the Interesting Points of the Situation.
- Step 4. Make your 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
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. The most effective thinkers I know, first find what’s right (this helps build rapport and gets more information out). Next, they find what’s wrong. It’s a simple pattern, but it’s way more effective than getting lock into one side or another.
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