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Censemaking No. 33

Thinking Tools

What’s on your mind these days? Whatever it is, it contributes to who you (think) you are, what you do, and whether you see both as a success.

Because we think all the time its easy to ignore it or take our thoughts for granted. This issue we bring thinking to the front of our mind and showcase tools, techniques, and approaches to thinking about creativity, innovation, our work, and ourselves.

We’re going to look at creativity, brainstorming, the role of systems and design thinking tools, systemic design, and go into resources to help you and your team address loneliness in your innovation work. That, and much more.

Get the pot on, it’s time for a coffee and innovation break and to think up some new ideas. Thank you for reading.

- Cameron

How We Think

“We can not solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Mental models are partly about what we see and the way we make sense of what we see. Change our models and we change our worldview. Farnam Street has put together a great primer on mental models to get you thinking about the way you frame your thoughts about the world and your possibilities within it.

What we think about shapes how we decide and evaluate our options. Cheryl Strauss Einhorn has made decisions her business and recently profiled 11 myths on decision-making that often hold us back from making wise choices. Make better decisions a reality, not a myth.

Great mentors provide us with a means to develop our ideas and to model ways of thinking so we may learn and find what suits us. There is an art and science to great mentorship and recent research has shown what the key ingredients to successful mentor-mentee relations are. Listen, learn, trust, and grow together.

For documentarian, author, and media creator Matt D’Avella changing the way he thought and acted changed his life. He recently spoke about how a shift in mindset about what it meant to create, perfection, and value transformed an idea into a YouTube channel with millions of subscribers. If you’re feeling creatively taxed, try this:

The one mindset that changed my life.

Thinking Tools

Tools can help us to organize our thinking. Whether it is about design, strategy, or systems, our thinking improves with the right tools.

This profile of some of the basic tools for systems thinking is a great orientation to the subject. By profiling visual methods for representing systems we can better focus our thinking about those systems.

Over the past three years Cense has pulled together short primers on tools for service design, creativity, and problem-solving on its learning page. These tools are introduced and explained and showcase real-world examples of how to use them in practice. This past week’s post focused on cautions and guides for using systems mapping.

Abraham Maslow’s exploration of human needs is often mistakenly represented as a pyramid. Designer Dennis Hambeukers has chosen to transform this pyramid into circles, providing a new way to think about Maslow’s work and a tool (of sorts) to place activities in a more relational way that fits closer to the original work.

For those looking a new ways to improve design thinking, IDEO’s Design Kit site provides a summary of key tools and techniques that complement some of what we’ve shared above. These tools focus largely on human-centred design and show how we can better engage and understand people to design for and with people.

The UK Design Council just unveiled its new framework for systemic design — connecting large, complex social issues with design strategies to address them. Frameworks are tools in themselves as they help shape our thinking about how to tackle problems.

Thinking About Creativity

Brainstorming is often seen as the start of a creative path to innovation. While useful, it’s too often done in ways that limit, rather than channel creativity. This useful tip-sheet for better brainstorming provides ways to ensure you get the most of your next idea-generation session. Another adjacent strategy is to keep going. Research shows that we miss great ideas by quitting brainstorming too early.

Want to think and create differently? Try going old school: handwriting. Research shows that using a pen and paper to create can transform our brains and use parts that aren’t often accessed when we engage with digital tools. The latest creative advantage might be a notebook away.

What if one of our greatest limits to creativity was in how we thought about our creativity in the first place? This deep dive into the history of creativity suggests we’ve been duped into thinking creativity is something for geniuses and savants with special talents. Research (and a few techniques) show how to ignite that creative spark in all us anytime.

If you’re interested in exploring creativity in practice, collaborative drawing, or connecting with others interested in the same thing the Design & Critical Thinking group hosts regular events and mash-up collaborative workshops.

Thinking About Wellbeing

Kindness is a practice that’s difficult to bet against. In this inspiring convocation speech from writer George Saunders he makes the case that no matter what we create it is our acts of kindness (or moments where we fail to show it) that will be our truest value to the world.

Innovators and entrepreneurs often struggle with a sense of loneliness. So do teams. Research research suggests the way we design our teams can contribute to loneliness and shows how to design them better. Our work is also making us lonely, too. By checking in our teammates, ourselves and creating space to talk about loneliness, purpose, and wellbeing we can reduce this epidemic in our work.

A look at how loneliness has been manifest during the pandemic is also a way to help us see what we can do to get more connected to others and ourselves as we move out of lockdowns into something else. Sometimes knowing the causes can help us with cures.

One way to reduce loneliness at work and in life is to find a sense of purpose and connect that to what we do. The Purpose in Life quiz from the The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley can provide you with a place to start.

What we think about can shape our reality. I hope you’ve thought something new this issue that has made your reality a little brighter.

Cameron

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