Learning Points From Teach Yourself To Think

Teach yourself to thinkPreviously I posted a book review for How To Teach Yourself To Think. I learnt a couple of things from reading the book. Here I share one of the key lessons I learnt. You can read the book review here.

How to generate possible solutions for a problem

Teach Yourself To Think introduces a five stage framework for structuring our thinking process towards finding solutions and solving problems. The five stages of the framework are:

  1. TO – indicates the aim, purpose or objective of the thinking. Where are we going to? How do we do it? With what do we want to end up?
  2. LO – indicates the information available and the information we need. What is the situation? What do we know?
  3. PO – this is the stage where possible solutions and approaches are generated.
  4. SO – narrows down, checks and choose from possibilities generated  the previous stage.
  5. GO – the stage where you act on the possibilities chosen in the previous stage.

The lesson I am discussing here is based on the PO stage, which deals with generating possibilities. Individuals and teams might face challenges with generating new ideas and approaches, but the PO stage offers us a structured way to go about generating new ideas and possibilities. De Bono discusses four ways to generate possibilities. Following is a brief description of each method.

  1. Search for standard  routine: this is the most common approach and is used when there is an obvious solution to the issue. For example if you want to know how to get from London to Paris, there is a standard response to answer this question. You simply look up the right information source to give you the answer. That can simply be a Google search. This approstandardach does not require much thinking.
  2. The general approach: with this approach to thinking about possibilities, we start with a general statement of what we want to achieve and then work towards a specific solution. For example, let’s assume we have a problem of limited car-parking space, we can start with a general statement like, “we have a problem with car-parking.” From this statement we can start generating possibilities such as, increase the car park size, decrease the size of cars, reduce the the use of the car park or make people happier with the present situation. At this stage the practicality of each possibility is not being analysed, we just need to generate as much possibilities as possible. This approach does require more thinking than the routine approach.
  3. The creative approach: this approach focuses on looking for new ideas.According to De Bono, “in open-ended creativity, such as when we start from a ‘blank sheet’ or from a neutral focus’, there is no defined end point.” Therefore the creative approach is essential when we know where we are starting from, but do not know where we are going to end up. One way to use this approach is through challenging existing thinking. For example with the car park problem we may ask, why treat the small size of the car park as a problem? Instead why not use it as an advantage? This requires a different way of thinking and challenges people to start thinking about the advantages of a small car park and how to use them to overcome the situation.
  4. The design and assembly approach: in this approach we put different elements together to achieve the purpose of the thinking. The elements may be obtained from standard sources or through creativity. One way of implementing this approach is by “listing the needs”, where we first list the needs necessary to solve a problem or overcome a challenge and then work to meet each of those needs. For example if we were designing a new mobile chair for someone with a physical disability we could list the needs as: quiet, nonpolluting, easy to put on and off, powerful and small in size. We would then need to come up with ideas on how to meet each need.

The book contains many more ideas about thinking and I’ve just introduced you to one of the very useful ideas in it. Look out for my next post that will give you ten quotes from the book.

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