Enlightened Conflict

thinking ain’t easy

May 4th, 2015

think new angle solution

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”


Carl Sagan



“Your mind is not a cage.

It’s a garden.

And it requires cultivating.”


A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

think think think

“What did thinking ever do for me; to what great place did thinking ever bring me?

I think and think and think.

I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.”


extremely loud and incredibly close







While often we talk about Time as the new currency in people’s lives … I think we should more often discussing Thinking as the new form of Life currency.


test think smarter


Thinking as a value proposition.



In today’s complex business world it seems like we are increasingly dependent upon thinking work, creativity, and the ability to grasp and apply complex abstract multi-dimensional intellectual challenges.



To be clear … thinking work is different from the traditional jobs & work of even the last generation.



I am not suggesting past work generations didn’t think but in an output/creation economy a worker could measure their success in physical quantities – how much stuff was created, sold, shipped or built.




In an idea/thinking economy the measures of success are increasingly intangible <unless you deem profits & stock price as tangible>. In this type of less tangible value proposition all of a sudden ideas or ‘feelings’ create value.







The iPod was better than other MP3 players not because it had more, but because it had fewer buttons and features – the right buttons and features for music on the go.

A restaurant chain displaces a competitor because it feels more (or less) like home.

A shoe company thrives because it gives away half the pairs that you buy.
Even vacuum cleaners, cars, and backyard grills are made, marketed and sold in ways that were inconceivable in the past.



Producing these products and services, consequently, is less a function of the volume of resources that are put in and more a function of “thinking investment” & “creating perceptions <with value>.”



In the past more raw materials, better equipment, or people punching a time clock translated directly to more “output.”




Today, it’s often more about efficiency.

less is_more by lukeafirth-d6ccowa

Or minimizing to maximize.


Minimize what to put in and then maximize how creatively you craft the features.



This means that production in today’s business world is about economical/efficient input … and selling is about thoughtful ideation.



That means thinking is the foundation of today’s economy.




Thinking ain’t easy. In fact … there is an inherent frailty in the intangible of this thinking foundation.






A couple of frail aspects to this thinking world I am outlining.



There is a mental frailty when it comes to coming up an ‘idea’ <good ideas are tough to come up with and typically very personal> … and there is a positioning in the mind frailty because the value resides more in ‘thought’ than in anything real <kind of nebulous when in thought form> … and then there is a simple ‘space’ frailty in the thinking mind.



Good ideas are often quick to arise … and quick to die. Ideas , and consequently thinking, is scary.



While I am not particularly fond of the articulation of this creative execution the message is truer than true.


GE Ideas are Scary



ideas crazy light



Ideas are scary.



And this leads me to the last frailty I mentioned earlier … a frailty in the mind’s capabilities.



This frailty is reflected in sheer mind storage space available <or the lack thereof>.



It’s not that there is any decline in mental capabilities but rather the mind becomes overwhelmed with too much thinking. By the way … this is not information overload … that is a different issue … this is simply thinking too much.


Too much thinking when the mind would be at its best by … well … not thinking.



Too much thinking can kill inspiration <as all the reasons why it can’t be done arise>.


Too much thinking can kill a thought <as it gets overwhelmed by new thoughts>.



Too much thinking can kill an idea <shifting from good to mediocrity>.





“It is a fundamental paradox of human psychology that thinking can be bad for us.”

Ian Leslie




By following our own thoughts too closely we can lose our bearings as our inner chatter drowns out common sense and stifles our ‘good thinking’.



Most of us are actually really pretty good at naturally culling down what is important when we think. Unfortunately we also suck at stopping after we have culled.



What I do know for sure is that in a study of shopping behavior … the less information people were given about a brand the better choice they made.


Specifically <and this will matter to those marketers who like to give gobs of minutiae to people believing it will help them make a better choice> … when offered full ingredient details the consumer got confused by their options <unable to discern differences and importance> and actually ended up choosing a product they did not like <i.e., people were forcing themselves to select on a criteria that was not really ‘heart preference’ but rather “head <logical> preference.” And they were not happy in the end when they used.


Sometimes the mind gets overwhelmed if it has to think about too much.



This leads me to believing that the art of thinking needs to be nurtured and trained as well as possible to be successful in today’s world.


Everyone has a natural thinker within us.



I believe everyone has some innate ability to treat pieces of information as jigsaw puzzle pieces waiting to be put together and create something.


But within that innate ability there are some people who seem to slow down rapidly moving pieces mentally so they can see everything … and there are other people who only see blurs or pieces of the pieces.


But everyone, yes everyone, has some ability to sift through the jumbled pot of information and, like a Williams Sonoma colander, trap the essentials and quickly let the inessential run off.



Simplistically … thinking has always been about bringing stuff in and letting stuff out.


“… we are cups, constantly and quietly

being filled. the trick is knowing how

to tip ourselves over and let the

beautiful stuff out.”

Ray Bradbury




Even all that said … today’s world does demand a different type of thinker.




The Thinker

Historically we contemplated in retreat, silence, solitude, and within our own mind. We solved problems in isolation, deep thought, and through introverted reflection.

==next generation of thinkers

The Contemporary Thinker

In an age of twittering, blogging, social networking, and sophisticated work-place networks, global science networks, and mass-participation and collaboration, information is exchanged in a nonstop connected world.




Today’s thinking and problem solving has to live in a world where we are inter-connected, globally accessible and the exchange of information is fluid.


this actually means we have the ability to bring problems closer to solutions and ideas faster to challenge the status quo.







Part of the challenge for the next generation of thinkers is how to let stuff out before they simply get overwhelmed with the amount that they bring in. This also means building a stronger ability to immerse in knowledge … and then step out of immersion to think.



<uhm – and I am scratching my chin>



The stepping in and out is … well … difficult.

Even for those who are good at it.




In today’s digital/networked society where the world, cultures and people share their experiences via a variety of web based social platforms … information travels, it is fluid, and experiences are shared … meaning that ideas swirl around for thinkers to grab out of the ether <as long as they are paying attention>.




“If you don’t think, then you shouldn’t talk.”

March Hare, Alice in Wonderland


“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.”

Robert Frost



Thinking is complex <so trying to tell someone ‘how to think’ seems kind of silly>. But thinking encompasses being creative, thoughtful, and solutions oriented <for thinking without a conclusion isn’t really thinking>. And this thinking is being done in a world where problems are extremely complex, target expectations, markets and industry variables are continuously moving, and our brains often seem like small computers within enormous networks that are constantly reconfiguring.







Let me tell you one last aspect which makes thinking even more difficult <and scary>.

Let’s just say most of us every day schmucks, & businesses, are notorious for being future blind.






Well.letters to myself note to future self



I am sure there are a variety of reasons but I would suggest two main reasons … it is difficult to envision something that doesn’t really exist today … and we think about insights, the things that inspire true thinking, as the outcome … not the enabler for outcome.




On that last thought … I saw a great article from someone at Claro about insights.



Many years of innovation work have shown me that insights are not enough. In fact, they are fairly worthless on their own. Insights have little intrinsic value without being transformed into frameworks and narratives that can drive strategic action.

<https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141006023207-4433999-the-false-promise-of-actionable-insight?trk=object-title >

The best part is when you realize the value is not in the insight itself but what can be done with it.

A good insight can inspire unique frameworks, narratives, and actions appropriate for very different challenges and opportunities.






I included that insight thought because I sometimes believe that thinking is hard because we love outcomes so much.


And often insight is simply the enabler of an eventual outcome <therefore thinking only indirectly has an outcome>.


And insights are not all created equal … therefore not all outcomes are created equal.



<yikes … there is a nasty Life formula>







All I really know is that today’s world runs on thinking <not making shit>.


And that thinking is not a particularly valued ‘product’ in today’s world.



We synthesize new ideas constantly.


We tend to learn rapidly.




Don’t shake your head and disagree. Most people learn a lot of new stuff really fast.



Uh oh.


thinking rubix


While we learn, and think, and apply what we just learned … you make mistakes.





Mistakes are tough to handle. We know we need to make them but get crucified in real life <and in business> and by society in making them.



This association makes thinking a disease in some people’s minds.



Think too much and bad shit happens.


Think too much and you get terminally ill.




“Thinking has become a disease.”


Eckhart Tolle


“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority.

The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority.

The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.”

A. A. Milne








Thinking can be a disease to some … and improve health in others.


Suffice it to say the mind is an amazing instrument when used correctly and a very destructive weapon when used incorrectly.



Being smart isn’t good enough … while the mind thrives when dealing with problems … it also loves true thinking … thinking driven by you <not a problem>.



This type of thinking is difficult and, frankly, most people don’t like doing it.




the day I cried about thinking:









I opened with three quotes and three thoughts.


1.   Something incredible awaits those who think <even though you won’t know what it is until it is there>.

2.    Minds need to be cultivated <you need to feed thinking>.

 ideas stretched

3.    Thinking isn’t easy <you can think your way out of happiness as well as good ideas>.





Time ain’t currency … the value lies within how you use the time. Thinking increases not only the value of time, economies … and Life.

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Enlightened Conflict