‘Are You Thinking or Mulling?’ by noula diamantopoulos
I think many times we fool ourselves by thinking we are working on a solution when in fact we are working on the problem. What that means is our thinking is stuck on how the problem is making us feel and that feeling is generally, terribly uncomfortable.
Every day we are challenged to make decisions. Some are easy. Some you don’t care about. Many are rushed and are gambled on, like the toss of a coin. And others are carried by what appears to be the very respectable use of logic and reason.
I believe we are either thinking creatively or we are mulling over a problem. The first way means we are solution-focused and looking at new ways, old ways and ALL ways to form a response that we are motivated to act on. We accept the problem as a challenge that will stretch us and we look forward to exploring the many and varied possible solutions our minds might come up with.
“Mulling over a problem” sounds like you are “thinking” about the problem – and you literally are, because you are thinking about the fact that you have this problem. And because you have spent a substantial time mulling over it, you know all about it, how it arose, what the issue is, and even who you can blame for it.
The Mulling Myth
We often push aside our ability to generate solutions until we have finished pondering the problem. Curiously, we value worrying as part of the problem solving process. Yes. Read that again. We value worrying and we value stress. Have you ever heard people say “Aren’t you worried?” or perhaps “You don’t seem worried about this.” when they are talking to someone working with their creative mind to solve a problem?
Reconnect with your Creative Mind
You know you have a creative mind, right? And it’s alive and well and always wanting to be part of the action.
The man wearing 6 hats once said that creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate, profits.
Reconnect with your creative mind by first playing with how the problem is phrased. Write out the problem on paper. Re-arrange the words. Now change your perspective entirely by rewriting the question starting with “How might I……?”
Let your creative mind follow the paths which spark its curiosity. Be curious about the words used to describe the problem. They may lead you on a wild goose chase, or if emotional language is used, well, that’s another goose chase entirely.
Here is a problem: “I don’t have enough people who provide trustworthy results and it takes a lot of time to recruit new people.”
The Mulling Response
“I can’t believe the attitude of the team members.”
“They are always producing unreliable results.”
“There is no commitment.”
“How am I going to manage this?”
“What can I do?”
“Qualifications mean so little these days”
“How did they get this position anyway?”
“They are useless.”
“How can I do my job when they can’t do theirs?”
Creative Response: Rephrasing The Question
“Do I have too few resources or is it that I don’t have the right mix of resources?”
“Is there nothing I can rely on from the team?”
“Are there ways that I can recruit quickly, and if so, what am I recruiting for?”
These questions then might lead you to the following creative thinking:
“How might I discover what the real strengths of each member of the team are and how might I learn about their strengths quickly?”
“How might I introduce a process quickly and easily to immediately mitigate errors?”
“Who do I know that I can call on right now for a short term solution?”
“How might I discover what’s holding the team back?”
Creative thinking is about making the challenge yours. You get to own it and then, and only then, can you find possible solutions.
However, something much more significant happens when you undertake this rigorous creative thinking process. You discover solutions that add value and grow the business in a better way. This is more than simply finding a solution – we can always do that. This process is about finding the best in fact the most appropriate solution that truly resonates with the growth of your team and the business.
Appearing in this Article
Edward De Bono – man wearing 6 hats
Mulling – brought to you by sometime in middle England; from mullyn “grind to powder, pulverise” and used now as a considered reflective process that creates a lot of bull dust.
Clarence Birdseye – Okay, he didn’t make it into the article but this is the guy who invented the freezing food idea and how we came to eat Birds Eye frozen food. He said: “Go round asking a lot of damn fool questions and taking chances, only through curiosity can we discover opportunities, and only by gambling can we take advantage of them.”